Dell eyes smartphone market by asking carriers what they want

'The door is very open for us,' Dell exec says

Dell plans to enter the consumer and small and medium-sized business (SMB) smartphone market by working with several major carriers globally, Dell officials told analysts Tuesday, without divulging many details, including timing.

"What operators want from us is a [smartphone] solution that's about supporting their technology...and their value-added services," said Ron Garriques, president of Dell's consumer division. His comments are part of a recording of the analyst event available at Dell's Web site.

Garriques did not mention by name any carriers Dell is talking to, but mentioned three technologies the company is being asked to support: LTE, Wimax and TDSCDMA, which is used in China. "I don't believe any operators care how we execute," he said. "They want us to be an integrator" of hardware, software and designs.

Stephen Felice, president of Dell's SMB unit, said there's "definitely demand" for smartphones by business users, adding that carriers don't care whether Dell actually manufactures the product itself. "I see an opportunity for us to broaden our capability in this space."

Garriques said the opportunities for Dell extend to devices larger than smartphones, but noted it will be up to various carriers to drive product development. Dell plans to "target the top three to four [carriers] and see what their needs are. We'll take it operator by operator [to find their needs], as opposed to saying, 'We'll target the MID [Mobile Internet Device] space' or whatever."

Dell already controls about 10 per cent of the consumer PC market.

Garriques also said that Dell has many workers capable of finding out what carriers want, stressing that "there are massive needs not being met by traditional players" for smartphones and other devices. "The door is very open for us around the world," he said. "I'm very bullish we can meet those needs."

With Wimax just beginning to roll out in the U.S., and with LTE expected to reach many U.S. Cities in 2012, a Dell smartphone in the U.S. could be years from fruition. But the advent of a Dell smartphone based on Android could come much sooner in China, if one analyst is on target.

While speculation about Dell's involvement in the smartphone space is not new, analyst Ashok Kumar at Collins Stewart wrote a report recently saying he believes Dell would soon release a phone in China that runs on the Android operating system. Kumar's view was included in a report by the Financial Times.

Many analysts have said it is only a matter of time before Dell enters the smartphone arena, with one reason for that assumption being that Garriques used to head up the phone division at Motorola Inc. and had signed a non-compete clause when he came to Dell to head the consumer division. That non-compete provision reportedly expired earlier this year.

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