Dell has been developing an Android-powered mobile device similar to the iPod Touch that runs apps, allows Internet access, and plays various media while fitting comfortably in your hip pocket. But as PC manufacturers and cell phone makers work their way toward the middle in the burgeoning smartphone and netbook markets, the question is, why?
The Wall Street Journal reports the device is slightly larger than an iPod touch, will run on Google’s Android operating system, absolutely does not make phone calls, and could be on the market later this year. That is, if it comes to market at all. The WSJ’s “people familiar with the company’s plans” have acknowledged the device could be delayed or scrapped altogether in the meantime, a move that might prove prudent for Dell.
Why? For one, Nokia has already made three such attempts at trapping some of the perceived market between media players, cell phones, and computers, none of which ever gained any legs. While the success of the iPod Touch proves there is something of a market for pocket media players that are Internet-capable, the degree to which smartphones have progressed and proliferated since the iPod Touch hit the market, coupled with the emergence of netbooks, has taken the edge off of that space.
There’s also the fact that Dell is extremely late to the party. The idea that Dell (whose original designs for smartphones were rejected by carriers for being less than sexy) is going to pull the rug out from under Apple and Microsoft’s upcoming ZuneHD isn’t easy to swallow either. The iPod brand is deeply entrenched in the portable multimedia player space, and Microsoft isn’t going to simply hand over any market gains it’s made against its arch-nemesis.
But the bottom line is that smartphones that perform all the functions of a mobile Internet device as well as the functions of a phone are becoming more ubiquitous (and cheaper) every day. Dell is currently working on a fresh batch of Android-powered smartphones, a move that could prove far more lucrative in the long run. Spending R&D resources to get more Android-enabled smartphones to market before the end of the year rather than pushing into a space that’s slowly being absorbed upward anyhow just seems, well, smarter. Wouldn’t a smartbook be even wiser?