Garmin, Asus Smartphones Add to Dell, Acer Frenzy in Spain

With Dell, Acer and other smartphone makers possibly planning on using the World Mobile Congress show in Barcelona as a launchpad for their own mobile products, Garmin and Asus look to stand out with the newly announced n??vifone M20 and n??vifone G60 smartphones. For Asus, which is better known for its low-cost Eee PC mini-notebook, the leap into the smartphone market could prove a game changer for the company.

The World Mobile Congress conference, which kicks off Feb. 16 in Barcelona, Spain, will definitely see the debut of two new smartphones from a pair of up-and-coming IT vendors: Garmin and Asus.

On Feb. 12, Asus, which is better known for its Eee PC mininotebook, and Garmin, which has made a name for itself in the GPS (global positioning systems) market, announced a pair of smartphones called the n??vifone M20 and n??vifone G60.

This year's World Mobile Congress show is looking to turn into a dueling battle of smartphone offerings. In addition to the Asus and Garmin offerings, Dell is rumored to be using the show as a launchpad for its own smartphone, and Acer is expected to release its own device that is set to compete again the likes of Apple, RIM BlackBerry and Palm.

The n??vifone G60 will feature 3G connectivity, and a satellite navigation system with preloaded maps of North America and Western Europe. The n??vifone M20 also comes with navigation, in addition to geo-tagged SMS, e-mail and photo sharing.

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Users can use the phones' GPS feature to receive their exact latitude and longitude, as well as information on the nearest points of interest - including hospitals and gas stations - while making calls.

In a press release, the company said it would announce pricing and availability in "the first half of 2009." It made no mention of carriers.

The rollout by Garmin-Asus comes at a time when other players, especially those companies already in the PC market, are considering a major leap into the smartphone business.

Rumors abound that Dell, the world's second-largest computer maker, will use the World Mobile Congress to debut its own smartphone.

Dell, which saw its PC shipments fall in the fourth quarter of 2008 thanks to a moribund economy, could be releasing a device that runs on both Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS and Google's Android platform. Such a smartphone may appeal to enterprise users in the market for an alternative to BlackBerry or Apple's iPhone.

Nonetheless, any smartphone maker faces an uphill battle in the marketplace.

"It would be extremely difficult to challenge either [the iPhone or the BlackBerry], on the grounds that both have a large install base, rabid followings and they're easy to use," John Spooner, an analyst for TBR, said in an interview. "What Dell or Acer or anyone getting into the game has to do is produce a device that's sexy, simple to use, able to do things like take photos, and cheap."

Editor's Note: This article has been updated with a quote from an analyst.