BLOGOSPHERE: In the market for a Dell smart phone?

Bloggers are abuzz on speculation that Dell Inc. is secretly working on a smart phone, with prototypes based on the Google Android and Windows Mobile platforms already in the works.

One device is rumoured to feature a full touchscreen like Apple’s iPhone, while another has a sliding keyboard similar to Palm’s Pre. The move sees Dell poised to re-establish itself in the mobile world after its Axim PDA was discontinued in 2007.

Douglas McIntyre at wrote that while Apple and RIM have shown how profitable the cell phone business can be, it is also an extremely competitive one. Without an established brand in the sector and a good relationship with the mobile carriers — two things that take years to build — Dell’s offering could be doomed from the start, he said. “Shareholders should be disappointed by the Dell news,” McIntyre wrote. “The company’s core PC business is in trouble. It is losing market share to competitors like Apple. The economic downturn is likely to challenge margins and lead to more layoffs.”

He added, “Dell has some chance to turn around its main business by coming to market with better PCs. Getting into another line of products which requires relationships that the company does not have is just stupid.”’s Kent Newsome said that the iPhone has created tremendous loyalty and raised expectations to such an lofty extent that it would be almost impossible for any new device to measure up, much less blow people away. “But a true competitor would be the best thing that could happen for consumers,” he wrote. “About the worst thing, at least for Dell, would be to toss out a ‘me-too’ handset just to get in the handheld game. Dell already tried to compete with Apple in the MP3 player space, only to beat a hasty retreat.

“Remember the Dell Axim? Me neither. Dell entered the cooling PDA market in 2002. And withdrew in 2007,” he added. “Unless they have beat the odds and created something that is revolutionary, or at least evolutionary, and not at all devolutionary, it’s not going to work.”

Gartner Inc. blogger Nick Jones was far from hopeful. He said that entering the smartphone market in 2009 is a courageous decision.

“For those of you who don’t watch old British TV this is a coded reference to a political comedy called ‘Yes, Minister’ where the term ‘courageous decision’ meant ‘you’ll probably regret this,’” he wrote.

Jones added that a Windows Mobile device could require the most courage because Microsoft hasn’t fixed the platform’s problems yet and it’s losing market share. He said that going the Android route is less courageous, but still a little rash. “Entering the smart phone market for the first time in 2009 is a bit like entering the car market for the first time in 2009,” Jones concluded.