Dell is definitely getting into the mobile phone business, a plugged-in source tells us. But will it do so with Microsoft’s help? Or Google’s?
Our source’s claim supports a report that Dell (DELL) could announce its mobile phone plans as soon as the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month. (Sound familiar? Dell was supposed to announce the same thing in Barcelona last February.)
This is a good idea. The smartphone market is still growing rapidly, and Dell has actually shown an ability to design good looking mobile gadgets in the past — see its Axim PDAs from earlier this decade.
But our source does not know which software platform(s) Dell has chosen for its phones. Its obvious choices: Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Mobile, Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system, or Nokia’s (NOK) Symbian platform.
Why would it pick any of those?
Microsoft and Dell have a long history, including Windows on Dell PCs, Windows CE on Dell Axims, and a new advertising deal for PCs. Microsoft’s current Windows Mobile is dog compared to Apple’s iPhone OS X. But we hear from the same source that Microsoft is working on new mobile software. And that it’s pretty good.
We imagine that Microsoft’s new mobile platform could include parts from Danger, the company that makes software for Sidekicks — remember those? — that Microsoft paid $500 million for last year. This would probably help Microsoft and Dell chase consumer buyers. (Meanwhile, Windows Mobile also easily, reliably synchs with Exchange email servers. So Dell could court corporate buyers, too, if that’s its goal.)
Google Android is more advanced and attractive than Microsoft’s current Windows Mobile, especially if Dell is shooting for the consumer market. It’s also free and open source, which means Dell could make Dell-specific tweaks. And it supports “push” Gmail. Last year’s Dell phone rumours involved Android.
Nokia’s Symbian has massive market share, especially in Europe. But Dell’s business has been lousy in Europe. Either way, Dell might convince people who are already happy with Symbian to purchase Dell phones as upgrades if the hardware is awesome.
If we were Dell, we would probably pick Android based on today’s platforms, especially if we were going after consumers. But if Microsoft really does have something good up its sleeve, and Dell could get early dibs — perhaps an announcement during Steve Ballmer’s keynote in Barcelona — it might be a good bet.
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