SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Dell CEO and founder Michael Dell told a reporter Oct. 13 that his company plans to market an Android smartphone in the United States sometime early next year.
Dell made his revelation in a separate conversation after finishing a 75-minute appearance with the Wall Street Journal's Don Clark, staged before an audience of about 300 in a dinner program sponsored by the Churchill Club.
Dell has been rumored for several months to be announcing an agreement to provide its Android-powered smartphone to AT&T for the U.S. market. Dell confirmed this to tech journalist Jean-Baptiste Su of TechPulse and the French News Agency and told him that it will happen probably in the first months of next year, Su told eWEEK.
Dell launched its mini 3i smartphone last August in partnership with China Mobile, which uses a specially designed version of Google's Android software called oPhone OS. However, for the U.S. version of this phone, Dell may use an older Android version and make minor user interface and service tweaks, Su wrote in his blog.
Earlier in the evening, Michael Dell had hinted about his company's ideas for the smartphone business during the conversation with Clark.
"The Internet in your pocket ... and new platforms that are coming out are pretty interesting. Some of them resemble things that we're pretty familiar with, in terms of open systems and the ability to compete in an open ecosystem," Dell said. "I think you'll begin to see us show up there, gradually."
The CEO addressed a number of other topics, including the impending public launch of Microsoft's Windows 7 ("You'll love your PC again!"), the 2007 EqualLogic acquisition ("This company had about 3,300 customers when we acquired it; we've added 10,000 new customers"), and the increasing dominance of the server in the data center.
"A lot of what goes on in the data center is being gobbled up by servers," Dell said. "We see switching, for example, rapidly collapsing into the servers. You've got virtualized switches, but even the switches that aren't virtualized -- they're now sitting inside blade chassis.
"Not that long ago, it looked like intellligence was getting sucked out of the server and it was going somehow into the network, but actually now it looks like it's going the other way. The server is becoming the epicenter of the data center, and you're seeing the switches get embedded inside the server. I'm sure there are plenty of other opinions out there."
Increased virtualization in data center servers has driven increases in the sales of virtualized storage, Dell said, adding that his company is bullish about the continued growth of the storage market in general.
Dell claimed that the acquisition of EqualLogic has made his company the No. 1 seller of iSCSI SANs, the "fastest growing part of storage [market], and we think that's a very attractive area."
On the trend of increasing sales of cheap netbooks -- mostly being manufactured by Far Eastern companies -- Dell said there are "a fair amount of customers not being that satisfied with the smaller screen and lower performance part -- unless it's a secondary machine, or it's the very first machine. And the expectations are pretty low.
"But as a replacement for a high-performing machine for an experienced user, this is not a good experience, and we don't see users being very happy in that scenario," Dell said.
In explaining how various computer form factors need to be closer fits for their daily usage, Dell told about a new product his company has designed and is currently marketing to schools, the Lattitude 2100.
"It looks like a netbook or notebook, but it's actually a system," Dell said. "It comes on a cart, with a whole bunch of these things. They come in different colors, you roll the cart in, you take them out, give them to the students. You pump them back in, they charge up, they have the networking all built in. Our sales of this 2100 system have been many times what we thought, and the schools just love it, because it fits their application really perfectly."
However, as a general-purpose notebook [for the business market], Dell said, the 2100 "is not really a great solution because of the screen size and performance."