Report: Dell to offer smartphone through AT&T

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Dell may offers its first smartphone in the U.S. through AT&T's wireless mobile network as soon as 2010, a news report said on Wednesday.

The smartphone will run the Android flavor of Linux, and include a touchscreen and a camera, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed people familiar with Dell plans.

Dell had already showed off a smartphone prototype, which the company calls a “mobile device,” at an event in China earlier this year. The prototype, dubbed the “Ophone” and displayed by China Mobile, included the Android-based Linux OS and a 3.5-inch touchscreen. It worked with 2G wireless networks and included China Mobile’s instant messaging client, an e-mail client and search features. China Mobile didn’t say whether and when it would offer the smartphone.

An AT&T spokeswoman declined comment on the news report. Dell declined to comment on whether it would offer a smartphone in the U.S.

“We are deeply engaged with our operator partners around the world to deliver mobile broadband enabled computing devices. We haven’t announced anything around voice or Android although we continue to explore opportunities in those areas with operators around the world,” said Andrew Bowins, a Dell spokesman.

Rumors of a new phone from Dell have been circulating all year, though the company has continuously declined to comment about its existence. The computer maker once made a handheld device, the Axim PDA, but cancelled it in 2007.

If indeed Dell launches a smartphone in the U.S., it would be entering an increasingly competitive market that includes Apple’s iPhone, Palm’s Pre and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry. Companies including HTC and Samsung already offer smartphones based on the Android OS in the U.S.

Dell’s mobile strategy currently mainly revolves around netbooks, and the smartphone could push the company into new markets. However, observers have expressed skepticism about Dell’s success in the mobile phone space, saying it was late at entering the market and may face issues contending with the popular iPhone.

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