Dell CEO Hints at Small Internet Device Like a Smartphone
Michael Dell may have been speaking from halfway around the world, but the voice of the CEO for a $20 billion company carries a long way. The topic was small-screen devices and specifically smartphones, a market with which Dell has flirted with but never quite taken the plunge. But Dell said that may change.
"It is true that we are exploring smaller-screen devices," he said. "We don't have any announcements to share today, but stay tuned, as when we have new news we will share that with you."
The biggest question surrounding the possibility of a Dell smartphone product is whether it's simply too late. "The smartphone market is cluttered and crowded," said Greg Sterling, founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence. Moreover, Sterling added, the market is overwhelmingly dominated by Apple's iPhone, which makes it very difficult for new entries to distinguish themselves.
In fact, there are reports emerging that last year, Dell built a prototype smartphone that was rejected by the major cellular carriers for a variety of reasons, including a thin set of features, lackluster design, and cost.
Now new rumors are circulating that Dell might try to leapfrog into the smartphone race by purchasing Palm, a company increasingly short on cash and in need of a major boost from the soon-to-be-released Pre.
"I think the possibility that Dell might buy Palm is an interesting story," Sterling said. "Palm's predicament is that too many expectations are being heaped on the Pre. It's an interesting phone, but it can't carry the whole company, which will undoubtedly disappoint investors."
Mobile Internet Device?
A more interesting possibility, Sterling suggested, would be for Dell to consider manufacturing a device larger than a smartphone that might have more capabilities.
"In the field of mobile Internet devices," he said, "there are some really interesting possibilities. If you solve the connection problem, you open the world up. Dell could get much more bang for its buck with nice new device that is not specifically a phone, or is a phone secondarily. It would be a much smarter play."
The mobile Internet device concept has gotten a boost lately thanks to rumors out of Taiwan that Apple has placed an order for 10-inch touchscreens for what some analysts think might be an oversized iPhone. The advantage for Dell, of course, is that the market for such devices doesn't really exist yet, and Apple's position -- at least right now -- isn't nearly as dominant as it is in the smartphone space.
Michael Dell himself suggested that Dell is looking long and hard at the mobile Internet device possibility. "For the last three years, we have integrated 3G radios into our notebooks," said Dell. "We already have agreements with many mobile carriers around netbook devices, so it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that we would have smaller mobile Internet devices or smartphones in the future."