Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dell: Stop Flirting With Smartphones & Turn to the Palm

Rollercoasters usually make me want to barf, but the undulating speculation associated with Dell's protracted flirtation with the smartphone space are having a curiously soporific effect on me...perhaps because Dell is a brand only corporate IT guys get excited about. Here's the chain of events:

  • It all started in February 2007 with a theory in a Gizmodo post that Dell was going to jump into handsets after poaching Motorola device exec Ron Garriques.
  • That April the rumor-mill started churning again with speculation in Engadget that Dell and Quanta Computer were working on a handset codenamed "Fly".
  • Just before 3GSM 2008 bloggers were advancing a theory that Dell and Google were in cahoots on the project.
  • But on a conference call in September 2008 Michael Dell dismissed rumors that the company was working on a smartphone, according to MacUser.
  • Buzz was rekindled by an Engadget post this January reporting on industry chatter over a Dell Android or S60 handset.
  • Then at 3GSM 2009 (aka MWC) gadget blog GearLog reported that during a panel discussion AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph De La Vega inadvertently blabbed that, "Dell announced they're entering the smart phone market." The rumorazzi went wild.
  • Then last week Barron's reported on Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu's research note that claimed Dell had presented Windows Mobile & Android prototype devices to the US carriers and that they had been rejected for "lack of differentiation" (ouch!!)
  • But, just yesterday Computerworld reported that in a Tokyo speech Michael Dell indicated that the company was still exploring a smartphone device.

OK, now wake up...there's more! In the note referenced in the Barron's story above Mr. Wu also mentioned that Dell is exploring acquisitions to help them with their differentiation problem. The author of the piece Eric Savitz ran with this idea, wondering aloud why Dell wasn't bidding for long-suffering Palm. Good idea! Palm knows the ropes with the carriers and that Pre is potential handset hotness.

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