Dell, maker of PCs and more, has offered its Axim series of Pocket PC-based handhelds for years now. HP loaded cellular radios onto its iPAQ handhelds and entered the smartphone market years ago. Palm's original product was its organizer PDA. Now it's more well-known for its Treo smartphones. And of course we all know about Apple's impending foray into smart-ish phone territory. So, where's Dell?The short answer is that there is no answer. For now, anyway.
The long answer is that Dell knows it's hurting with no products in this sector. Just yesterday it announced that it stole Motorola's former mobile devices president Ron Garriques, whose talents will be used to further Dell's consumer electronics division. Granted, Mr. Garriques departure from Motorola will likely not cause too many tears in Schaumburg, as fourth-quarter profits dropped precipitously in 2006. Performance issues at Moto aside, Dell wouldn't have brought on such a mobile industry figure if it didn't know it needed the help.
Motorola, Palm, RIM, and Nokia own the smartphone market. HP's presence is less noteworthy. Though the Mobile Messenger series of Windows Mobile devices haven't necessarily flown off the shelves, they are a solid enterprise offering and indicate that HP has some sort of mobile vision.
There is no visible mobile vision at Dell, and it should have one. More than 1 billion cell phones were sold last year, and about 6% of phones sold in the U.S. were smartphones. That's roughly 6 million people out there spending $100 to $500 on devices they use every day. Forecasts indicate those numbers will only continue to grow like mad. Dell has been crazy to ignore this market for as long as it has.
Let's hope Mr. Gariqques' presence in Austin helps spur some change and innovation from Dell. It needs it.