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Dell Launches Smartphone in China
The long rumored Dell Mini 3i cellphone made its debut at the launch of China Mobile's new Mobile Market style App Store. Similar in look to the Apple iphone, the new Dell offering is a 3.5-inch 360 x 640 pixel communications device with a capacitive touch screen running Google's Android-based Open Mobile System (OMS). The device also includes a 3 Megapixel camera, microSD slot, Bluetooth, and 950mAh battery. It does not support WiFi and is limited to 2G GSM networks. The initial market reaction has been less than enthusiastic.Dell has not said if it has any plans to offer the Mini 3i or a modified version outside of China. It is difficult to assess whether this will become another Dell product that will quickly disappear (remember the Dell pocket PC?) or the first step in a major strategic initiative to compete globally in the multibillion-dollar-and-growing market for smartphones. Dell's only other significant entry into the voice communications was its alliance with Nortel to resell the telecom supplier's BCS and SCS500 small business system solutions; very little has been heard from either company about the arrangement since its announcement almost two years ago.
Dell is a potential player in the enterprise communications market and could theoretically jump in with two feet as a winning bidder in the Nortel ES bankruptcy auction, but there is currently no indication of any kind that the computer supplier will be involved.
Dell's revenues have been down 23% during the past year with a 63% profit decline, and each of its four primary business units have been hit hard by the declining economy. To sustain the long term growth the company experienced since its founding will be difficult, because it is now a $60 billion behemoth that needs significant new revenue streams. The smartphone market is one potential source, but it is highly competitive with more than a few companies comparable in size and resources to Dell, such as Nokia and Samsung, and if Dell wants to compete head-on against other competitors, such as Apple and its iPhone or RIM and its Blackberry, a successful outcome is very far from certain.