Will Dell survive in the mobile space?
Dell has been a household name in Computerland for quite some time, but things haven't been going so smoothly for them in the mobile realm. While the Dell Streak launched without incident, the launch of the Aero and their Windows Phone 7 device have been far from perfect.
Originally, the Streak, Dell's 5-inch, Android powered, “pocket tablet,” launched with the unappealing Android 1.6, which discouraged many buyers from following through. It led them to believe that Dell may not keep their Android devices up-to-date, but they disproved that theory by skipping over Android 2.1 entirely and gracing Streak users with Android 2.2. The Streak definitely wasn't the most impressive device to hit the market, but it definitely wasn't the worst; that title is reserved for its next of kin, the Aero.
The Dell Aero is a mid-range Android device with rather dull specifications. In short, it was enough to make Aaron “Conan” Baker say, “Wow, they released this?” It is all-plastic, lacking the dedicated, standard Android buttons (home, back, menu, search), laggy, and the user interface and software keyboard that Dell used was frustrating, to say the least. It virtually destroyed the Android experience we know and love. Even worse than its 5-inch brother, the Aero shipped with Android 1.5 while most other mid-range devices were already sporting 2.1 or 2.2. For a company that plans to stick around and carry some real weight, releasing a device like the Aero isn't a good idea, and is detrimental to the reputation of the company.
If the Aero's release wasn't enough to turn prospect buyers away from Dell, the Venue Pro's launch, or lack thereof, may be the straw to break the camel's back. Talk of Dell's Venue Pro, a 4.1-inch vertical slider running Windows Phone 7, has been making headlines for quite some time. First, it launched on November 8, exclusively at Microsoft retail locations (I'm told there are only 7 in the US), so the device was not widely available. After this initial launch, the Venue Pro fell victim to secured Wi-Fi network issues. This led to the postponement of the device's second launch until the first of December, when the Venue Pro was made available for pre-order from the device's page on Dell's website. Said pre-orders which were supposed to ship on the 14th. The word now is that the Venue Pro has been postponed into 2011 due to several reasons (explanations from Dell blame “excessive demand” and parts problems). Pre-orders should ship on January 6 of next year.
For a company that is just now getting its foot in the door of the mobile space, a device launch like this is a travesty, or better yet, the manufacturer's worst nightmare. The Venue Pro looks very enticing with its executive design and portrait QWERTY keyboard, but not everyone will be so patient to wait around for it. When launch dates keep getting pushed back further and further (months at a time), buyers get antsy. They want a device in their hands that works, not something they're going to have to worry about workarounds and fixes after waiting for so long.
I'm sure the Aero and all of the poor reviews it received really put a dent in Dell's mobile reputation, so I'm not sure if people will be sticking around to see what they have to offer with the Venue Pro. Dell is off to a very rocky start, and they're up against some serious competitors that have device launches down to an art. Sure, every company has issues every now and then, but when you're one for three, you might want to start thinking of plan B, whatever that may be.