Dell’s Axim handhelds trickling out

Quite a few customers are getting Dell Computer Corp.’s Axim handheld, but not all of them are waiting patiently. Several customers have complained on a message board on Dell’s Web site about the length of time they’ll have to wait for their new handheld, and Dell acknowledges the product isn’t shipping as quickly as it would like it to.

The Axim is Dell’s first product for the personal digital assistant market, and aims to undercut its rival Hewlett-Packard Co.’s iPaq product on price. The least expensive Axim sells for US$199, compared to $299 for the cheapest iPaq. Dell also offers an Axim with a faster processor for $299.

However, the efficient order and delivery system that has made Dell one of the world’s leading PC vendors doesn’t seem to be working for the Axim. The average wait time for an Axim is currently about two weeks for the basic unit, as compared to the average three-to-five day waiting period for a PC, said Cody Pinkston, a Dell spokesman.

“The popularity of the product and some of the accessories we’ve added have resulted in longer lead times,” Pinkston said. Dell offers a folding keyboard and a wireless LAN access card with the Axim, but Pinkston wouldn’t say if one particular component or another was causing the delays.

Dell sends an e-mail to its customers after they order a product with an estimated ship date, which sometimes doesn’t live up to the estimate, Pinkston said. If the ship date is extended beyond the estimated time, Dell informs the customer of that delay, he said.

One anonymous prospective Axim customer contacted by IDG News Service through the Dell message board has been waiting three weeks to receive his base model Axim, which was ordered without any of the accessories. “I understand delays in general, but I don’t understand Dell’s handling of the situation. There was no language on the site to indicate that there would be a delay,” the user said.

Analysts and various reports have indicated that Dell’s Axim’s are actually built by Wistron Corp. in Taipei. Pinkston could not confirm that information, but did say Dell is working with “a Taiwanese manufacturer” for production of the Axim, and the shipping delays have not been caused by that manufacturer.