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The rumor mill is spinning on speculation that Dell will introduce a
smartphone this month, but solution providers are taking a decidedly
more subdued stance on the possibility.

“I just heard about it last week,” said Ray Paganini, CIO of
Cornerstone IT in Cleveland. “My first question would be whether it
runs Microsoft Mobile. But [either way] we’d certainly look at it – it
wouldn’t hurt.”

“It’s an interesting thought. I’d like to see more competition
that’s viable in the smartphone space,” said Pat McKay, owner of
Keystone IT, Iowa City, Iowa. “It would be nice if I could sell a
smartphone through a channel that I already have.”

Rumors bolstered by comments by analysts are fueling speculation
that Dell is planning to unveil a smartphone at the 3GSM conference in
Barcelona later this month. If the rumors prove true, Dell would be
following Apple’s iPhone, RIM’s BlackBerry Storm, Google’s G1 and the
recently unveiled Palm Pre to the high-capability smartphone market.

If Dell does enter the smartphone market, it couldn’t come at a
better time. According to the Channel Insider 2009 Market Pulse report,
smartphones and PDA were ranked by solution providers as the technology
considered most exciting by their customers.

Dell has made inroads with consumers in the past year with its new
line of sleek and extremely lightweight computers and in some respects
seems to be following in the footsteps of Apple in terms of form and
function. But one only needs to think back a few years to Dell’s first
foray into the handheld arena with its ill-fated Axim PDA. It also
introduced an MP3 player, the Dell DJ, which was quickly pounded by the
iPod. Those devices were aimed at the consumer space. And while the
argument could be made that a smartphone is a consumer device, it is
also decidedly a business device, as mobility becomes even more
important in the work force.

“Dell has a credibility problem because it had the Axim and
discontinued it,” said MJ Shoer, president of Jenaly Technology Group,
Portsmouth, N.H. “If you look at any manufacturer, when they enter a
space and then pull out, people get skeptical.

“That said, Dell has a good, solid reputation and a good support
infrastructure behind them. If they can deliver that to a smartphone,
no reason to believe they wouldn’t be successful,” Shoer said.

Proof is also in the sales: Research firm Gartner reported worldwide
smartphone sales hit 32.3 million units in the second quarter of 2008,
up 15.7 percent over the second quarter of 2007.

“As far as the business goes, smartphones are hot,” Shoer said. It
doesn’t matter what [platform] you’re talking about. I would say the
smartphone market is likely to stay hot and, if anything, is getting
hotter. A number of applications are being written specifically for
smartphones, and as more business apps are written, you’ll definitely
see the market take off.”

Dell did not answer requests for an interview.  
Brian Okun, director of sales at Prevalent Networks, Bedminster, N.J.,
said while smartphones are becoming ubiquitous in the end user space,
they are introducing a new level of integration complexity.

“We are seeing a much greater need to integrate these devices,
especially iPhones, into the corporate infrastructure,” Okun said.
“[Research In Motion] has always done well in this regard, so there are
additional complexities introduced with the iPhone [that were not with
the BlackBerry].”