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June 25, 2012

Dell remains coy on smartphone future

Priorities lie elsewhere at the moment, company tells CBR

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Dell has refused to rule out making more Android powered tablets but has suggested it is unlikely to return to the smartphone space any time soon.

Speaking to CBR, Kirk Schell, VP, computing products, Product Group, said the Texas-based company wants to be a "full service IT provider" and while that will include a line of tablet devices, smartphones are unlikely to feature.

Dell has dabbled in the smartphone space before with its Venue line of devices, but following poor sales and reviews the range was pulled after a little over a year on sale. It also released a smartphone/tablet hybrid called the Streak, but that too lasted around a year before Dell abandoned it.

Neither product gained much market share when faced with competition from Apple’s iPhone and iPad and various Android-powered smartphones and tablets.

Asked if the company was looking to get back into the smartphone device space, Schell told CBR that the company had its sights set elsewhere.

"We continue to evaluate smartphones but I think for us the priority would be more around tablets and other mobility than smartphones," he said. "We will continue to look at it but as we have a broad business we have to be disciplined about what we prioritise."

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That priority seems to be competing alongside IBM and HP as a one-stop shop for IT needs. "We’ve tried to build the company out to be more than just a device company and into a full service IT provider," Schell told CBR. "We believe the devices certainly count but it’s about more than that – it’s security, management, software and even what we can do in the field to help deployment and so on."

Schell also spoke about the company’s tablet plans and said that Windows 8 devices are on the horizon.

"We are excited about Windows 8. It offers great opportunity for us in both business and consumer. We’ve been working very closely with Microsoft on this, they are a key partner. All indications are that the Windows 8 environment will be adopted quickly," he said.

Schell refused to comment on whether the company knew in advance of Microsoft’s Surface tablet announcement and rejected suggestions that it is a kick in the teeth for companies like Dell that usually provide the hardware that showcases Microsoft’s software.

"It’s positive," he told us. "It’s good to see Microsoft generate demand for Windows 8 and educated the population on it. They are still a key partner of ours and we’ll work closely with them on our Windows 8 products. I think it’s a good thing to drive the ecosystem and drive awareness."

Schell also refused to rule out a return to Android tablets at some point in the future, saying that Dell, "continues to evaluate multiple operating systems and architectures. We like to think our product development is focused on customer need and requirement rather than available technology."

"We expect to be a full participant in the tablet market so stay tuned for specifics," he continued. "It’s part of our growing business. These devices will live inside the ecosystem with security and management and so on. We used to think of the PC industry as everyone was either a desktop person or a laptop person or whatever but now everyone is everything. Tablets are an ‘and’ device, they are another way to be productive."

"If it allows individuals and companies to be more productive that’s a positive and we should be trying to enable that," Schell concluded.

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