Dell takes the phone out of smartphone

July 1, 2009

Dell takes the phone out of smartphoneHave you ever thought to yourself “I’d really like a smartphone, but without the phone?” No? Then what about an iPod touch without the music player?

Dell is reportedly working on a pocket-sized mobile device running the Android system. It would have internet access, but would not allow users to make phone calls. The device is said to be an offshoot of an abandoned attempt to compete with Apple in the portable music market, suggesting it won’t have music capabilities.

Though the only information available is from unofficial leaks, and is thus inherently lacking in clarity, the mystery isn’t just what Dell is doing, but what it hopes to achieve. One source reports that Dell is considering selling it through cellular providers, which could mean they plan to have the internet access made through 3G networks on a subscription deal, possibly with the device’s sale price subsidized.

If that’s the case, it’s tough to imagine many people signing up given that they’d almost certainly be carrying a separate phone as well. (The device is reported as slightly bigger than the iPhone, so that would make for some cluttered pockets.)

The other option would be that the device works on WiFi, which pretty much makes it an iPod touch. If the Dell device does have a music player, it’s chances of success depend on finding people who don’t currently have an iPod, finding a way to produce it at a competitive price, then overcoming Apple’s brand dominance.

If Dell is simply planning to offer a portable internet browser with no other major features then it’s only real hope would be to somehow produce it at a throwaway price. Either that or package it with a laptop and a netbook as some sort of Russian doll gimmick.

There is some good news for Dell stockholders worried such a product may bomb: the Wall Street Journal reports its source on the story as saying Dell “may begin selling the device later this year… [or] the plan could be delayed or scrapped entirely.”

Option number three sounds good to me.

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