New Dell mobile devices a dubious prospect

To sell a new player, Dell has to convince people they don't want what has become the default choice in the marketplace.

If Michael Dell decides to release a new Android-based handheld device, as the Wall Street Journal speculates he might, it will be his fourth try at entering the market and he will almost certainly fail, if his track record is a guide to his future.

You'd think that Dell might be able to sell a business device--such as an Android handset--and the company supposedly has those in development for debut later this year. But, an inexpensive consumer music player/Internet device? Much less likely.

Apple's iPhone has created an incredibly high barrier to entry in the music player business. To sell a new player, Dell has to convince people they don't want what has become the default choice in the marketplace.

So far, many have tried to unseat the iPhone and none have come close. This is at least in part because of the cool factor Apple has imbued upon its products. But it is also, and more importantly, a factor of the huge iPod/iPhone ecosystem of music sales, app sales, and accessory sales.

When you can get all that, why buy something else? Especially from a company with no real experience in the space?

Dell's previous player outings included 2003's "Digital Jukebox," a real loser, and a 2008 product that was promised for Christmas but shelved in November, before it could ship.

Even when Dell gets the product right, the company ultimately fails, as it did with its Axim PDA line, brought out six years ago, just as the PDA market was dying. Axim's were OK, but Dell's timing wasn't.

If Dell could develop a wildly successful music player it would be the first company to do so since iPod claimed virtually the entire player market for its own.

Customers have proclaimed iPod the winner and a new device, from Dell or anyone else, would have to both incredibly good and incredibly different (in a good way) to succeed.

Dell doesn't have a track record that suggests any real possibility of success, but they are a smart company and I'd love to see someone give the iPod real competition. Maybe Android and Dell can do it. Probably not.

David Coursey tweets as techinciter and can be contacted using the form at www.coursey.com/contact.

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