Dell throws in the towel on smartphones in U.S.

Dell throws in the towel on smartphones in U.S.

Summary: Dell exits the U.S. smartphone market in an attempt to start over. It's a temporary setback for a key entry point into the enterprise.


"Go hard or go home."

If you played sports as a kid, as I did, you are no doubt familiar with this oft-used phrase. It's a small part of the well-worn tradition in sports of girding oneself before a game, a verbal alternative to the reassuring routine of jumping up and down in place, slapping tensed muscles and hollering.

It is preparation to go to battle. It is a singular focus: win.

That focus was not on display this morning as computer maker Dell reportedly pulled out of the U.S. smartphone market, ceasing sales on the Venue and Venue Pro and retreating with its tail between its legs.

"With the consumerization of IT in the enterprise, Dell is focusing more on mobile devices that can be used for both work and home," IDG's Agam Shah reports.

And yet that's exactly the opposite of what happened here. Dell entered the smartphone market by recognizing the mobile device as a key entry point into the lucrative enterprise, then barely made a splash. It's like showing up to the Super Bowl with the Duluth Bulldogs -- Apple played by the New England Patriots, RIM played by the Indianapolis Colts or Samsung played by the New Orleans Saints, naturally -- there's a chance of an upset, but it's more than likely that you're going home with a highlight reel of gaffes.

(CNET's review of the Aero: "...a huge disappointment." The Venue: "...falls short of the competition." The Venue Pro: "...shouldn't disappoint." The Streak 7 tablet: "...not enough to distract us." Not exactly the stuff that will shake you from the status quo -- though it takes more than good hardware to win at this game.)

To be fair, Dell's down and not out -- it still sells mobile devices in China, India and other high-growth markets. It will try again. But it's a damn shame that the company had to enter the mobile market -- clearly the dominant one over the next 10 years, no doubt about it -- in a somewhat get-rich-quick, quarter-over-quarter desperation move, rather than a clear-eyed, long-term, strong-hand-at-the-helm strategy. Whatever internal consternation it may have experienced in getting those phones and tablets out the door, it was not nearly enough effort to truly put a dent in the market.

One of the four key pillars for Dell in 2012 is to "deliver solutions that customers value," and through that arrive at another pillar, "capture growing share of IT profit pool."

Michael Dell himself hinted at this hardware-to-services hand-off just over a year ago:

On smartphones and tablets, we were very pleased to introduce the new Venue and Venue Pro which are Android and Windows Mobile 7 based 4.1 inch products. You’ll see us enter the 10-inch tablet space with both Android, Honeycomb and Windows later on this year. And we think those will be reasonable platforms for us to participate more broadly in this space. Now we have also rolled out services for mobility because we see many customers really looking to integrate these mobility solutions into their environments and that is a source of demand inside our services unit.

If the company really wants to mirror its traditional computer business in the mobile sector -- enterprise services and hardware, together, in a turnkey portfolio -- it's going to have to get its mobile act together. Not just enter -- win.

Go hard or go home.

Topics: Mobility, Dell, Hardware, Smartphones

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • It's easy to start up and then stop

    When someone else is actually making and 'branding' the phones you sell.

    They can come back as quickly as they left.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
    • I agree with you, for a change. Nice observation.

  • that's the price for not using FOSS

    Dell did not get the memo that proprietary software is DOA.
    Even George Clooney can't pull it. ;)
    The Linux Geek
    • RE: that's the price for not using FOSS

      o Dell sold both Android-based smartphones (the Venue) and tablets (the Streak).
      o Dell was the only major Microsoft OEM to offer desktop Linux (i.e., Ubuntu) pre-installed on consumer desktop and laptop PCs.
      o Dell continues to sell servers supporting both RHEL server and SLES.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • And... we're back to normal.

  • This is just another sign of a healthy competitive market, right?

    One company gets 95% of the profits and every other company, one at a time, drop out because they are losing money.

    This is what we all are cheering for, isn't it?
    • Apparently you lost your cheese

      To go with your standard whine. I'm sure you'd make yourself happier if you took the time to throw a mobile phone or few off a bridge.
      • Did I not accurately describe the state of the market?

        I don't like it either. I wish we had a better market, one where more than 1 company could be successful. That is proving to be harder and harder to accomplish when 1 company takes in 95% of the profits.

        Unless you are cheering for a market where 1 company gets 95% of the profits and every other company, one at a time, drops out? The last time that happened in the tech industry, that worked out really well for consumers, right?
  • Maybe they should bring back Blackberry ....

    Love to hear how Dell employees are doing now since they dumped Blackberry. What a mess. Windows Phone is not ready for enterprise or consumers. All that postering and now the failure.
    • Spoken like a true


      [i]Windows Phone is not ready for enterprise or consumers[/i]

      Well, from what I've been reading and seeing with Android, niether is that!

      LOL! :D
      William Farrel
      • Adoption says otherwise

        Windows Phone is trending down, The dead Windows Mobile platform has more users so call it whatever you want. Enterprise or Consumers have zero interest in Microsoft's mobile platforms.
    • Actually

      I think all the mobile platforms are lacking in one area or another. The cellphone/tablet market seems to be focused on consumers first and then enterprise second. Management options are getting better for these platforms but still needs to improve.

      The one thing I will give both iOS and WindowsPhone is the user experience is more consistent. The UI is the same across all models and both are fairly easy for a person to pick up and just start using. Android is a different story where the UI can fluctuate from model to model and depending on the version of Android. Some models seem to be easy to set up and others are not very intuitive at all. Having users with phones running iOS, WP7.x, and Android I get more "Help Me" issues with Android phones than anything and every model seems to be a bit different. We also have more phone failures with Android Devices too where aside from people dropping or losing their iOS phones and WP7.x phones they seem to work without a hitch.

      All that being said they can all do pretty much what most people want to use their phone for when it comes to work out of the box.
    • Dell employees are much better off with WP than Blackberry

      WP is a much better choice for both enterprise and consumers than either rim or ios or android.
      Johnny Vegas
  • Another "me too" company bails

    Very few companies with a clue in the tech industry...
  • A disjointed company

    Dell is more than capable of creating and selling great devices.
    I wonder what the driver was in the smartphone division?
    • Really?

      What Dell device is great? Their servers are junk. Their desktops are junk. The Precision M4500 I get provided by my employer is junk as well.

      Nothing Dell does is anything other than very poor!
      • dell pc's are ok

        I have an Optiplex 780 at work which I use primarily to write .net applications, and I have not had any issues with it for as long as I have it - almost two years.

        If your employer gave you a pc that it is too cheap for what you need to do at work, do not blame the pc manufacturer.
      • Dell makes Alienware!

        I dare you to call Alienware JUNK!
        So you got some basement gear from Dell, that is far from what Dell is capable of.
      • Monitors!

        Value for money and good warranties.
      • Everyone hates some brand or another...

        Where I work, we run all Dells, and for as many as we have, they do not give us much trouble at all, and the trouble we have is handled well by Dell support. Most of our systems are over three years old (and no longer under warranty.) They are still humming along.

        Everyone hates some brand or another. I always hated HP for shoddy systems, and especially their terrible tech support. My Brother in law had several HP systems and has even raved about their wonderful tech support. Go figure...