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Dell poised to announce Android phone?

Jan 30, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Dell will announce a high-end, customizable phone that runs either the Linux-derived Google Android or Windows Mobile operating system, says a report. The phone could ship as early as next month, and be available with or without a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, the report claims.

According to the Wall Street Journal report, Dell representatives spent much of last year meeting with suppliers of phone components, phone software companies, and Asian phone manufacturers. The company has now produced prototype phones, in both Android and Windows Mobile versions, the newspaper says.

Citing “people familiar with the matter,” WSJ writers Julian Scheck and Yukari Kane say Dell may unveil these prototypes at next month's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “Dell hasn't finalized its plans and may still abandon the effort,” the authors concede.

What could Dell bring to an already-crowded smartphone marketplace? A separate report on the Silicon Alley Insider website, citing “a few tips from someone who claims to be close to Dell,” says the manufacturer will distinguish itself by making the devices highly customizable, just as it does with its PCs. There's no word on whether customization on Dell's phones would involve their software, their hardware, or both, SAI writer Dan Frommer adds.

In their WSJ article, Scheck and Kane make the following claims, supporting their contention that Dell will enter the smartphone business:

  • Dell's share of the PC market was down to 13.7 percent last quarter, according to IDC
  • Smartphone phone sales in 2008 were up 27 percent year-over-year, again quoting IDC
  • In 2007, Dell hired Ron Garriques, the “former phone chief” at Motorola, to head its consumer products efforts
  • Former Motorola employee John Thode oversees Dell's development of netbooks, and has also secretly headed Dell's phone development group, “according to people briefed on the matter”

But, the authors concede, the smartphone market is crowded, and becoming more so. Last year, for example, Acer announced its plans to release smartphones, and now says it will release an entire “range of easy-to-use devices” at MWC. The U.K. website, speculated that Acer may be planning to launch devices based on Google's Android. (For more details, see our earlier coverage, here.)

Dell has previously offered an “Axim” range of Windows Mobile PDAs (personal digital assistants). Now discontinued, the devices were ahead of their time in many ways, and have a distinct following among eBay buyers. The Axim X51V pictured at the top of our story, for example, was released more than four years ago, yet it featured a 3.7-inch VGA display, a 624MHz PXA270 processor, Bluetooth, WiFi, and an optional GPS receiver.

Further information

To read the article in The Wall Street Journal by Julian Scheck and Yukari Kane, see the publication's website, here [entire content available only to paid subscribers]. To read the Silicon Alley Insider report by Dan Frommer, see here.

For an analysis on our sister site by writer Nathan Eddy, go here.

For more information on the Mobile World Congress, see the show website, here.

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