Report: Dell may launch smartphone next month

Dell will soon enter the smartphone market, perhaps as early as next month, bringing to a head rumors that had been swirling around the computer maker for more than a year, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The report, citing people familiar with the matter, said that Dell has had engineers working on smartphone prototypes for more than a year in the Chicago area, and has developed models based on Google's Android platform as well as on Windows Mobile. One of the models is a touchscreen phone with no physical keyboard, similar to Apple's iPhone 3G, and another has a slideout QWERTY keyboard, similar to the T-Mobile G1.

Dell has still not finalized any of the plans, and could still scrap the entire effort. "We haven't committed to anything," a Dell spokesman said. The move would be a bold one for Dell, which has been losing PC market share, and would bring it into direct competition with the likes of Apple, Palm and Research In Motion.

In 2007, Dell hired Ron Garriques, a former Motorola executive who was the driving force behind the handset maker's popular RAZR phone, to head its consumer products efforts. Garriques signed a non-compete agreement with Motorola, which prevents him from working on phones until next month. Another former Motorola employee who joined Dell is John Thode. He reportedly has been running the phone development program in isolation from other Dell units and there is a high level of secrecy within the company surrounding the project.

If it launches a smartphone, Dell would follow in the footsteps of other non-traditional companies entering the handset space, notably Huawei and Acer. Both of those firms will debut new phones next month at Mobile World Congress.      

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