Published: 29 March, 2012
Dell has jumped in and out of the smartphone market like a jack-in-the box and now is set to exit once again, reportedly ceasing US sales of its Venue and Venue Pro devices.
The firm's official line is that its devices, which ran Android or WP7, had reached the end of their life and that new models would appear later in the year. "Mobility products have shorter lifecycles than laptops and desktops," a company spokesman told PC World.
However, phonemakers do not generally withdraw a product without a replacement ready, and most observers now expect Dell to give up on handsets, at least in developed markets. It may continue to launch handsets in China, Brazil and India, where it has carrier deals.
The future mobile products its promises for the US and Europe are likely to be tablets, ultrabooks and ultramobile PCs, which draw on its more familiar ecosystem, partners and channels. It has pledged a major Windows 8 tablet launch, which would come late this year and may well end Dell's flirtation with Android for good.
The PC maker has never successfully applied its famous brand and supply chain expertise to the mobile sector, despite several attempts. After releasing PDAs and music players initially, it then hired Motorola's former head of devices, Ron Garriques, in 2008 for a serious smartphone push. The Aero and Mini Android models ensued for the US and China, though these appeared a year later than expected, supposedly because of weak carrier interest. Dell then pulled back from those ranges and came up with the Venue duo, plus the Streak 5-inch tablet/phone hybrid. That can now be seen as the model for the new 'phablet' craze, but at the time the format seemed an odd compromise and Dell first released a more conventionally sized tablet, and then axed Streak altogether.
PC vendors like Dell, HP and Acer have pinned high hopes on the trend for enterprises to support 'bring your own device' policies, stimulating demand for smartphones that combine business and consumer functionality. But none of them has delivered, and HP has also dumped its cellphone activities and even its mobile operating system, webOS, now in open source. Instead, cellphone giants like Samsung and Apple have been expanding their business capabilities with new applications and features like enhanced security.