Rumors about a Dell handheld device of some sort have been circulating for ages, but the Wall Street Journal is reporting what seems to be more than mere rumor. It says that Dell is working on a handheld that will sport an ARM processor and run Google’s Android OS. It may come out in the second half this year, the Journal says. Or be delayed. Or never come out.
The Dell gadget would apparently be a rival for Apple’s extremely successful iPod Touch–a device that’s been around for two years and which still doesn’t have much in the way of direct competition, though it’ll get some later this year when Microsoft’s Zune HD appears. The Journal’s story points out that a Dell Android handheld would be an example of the Mobile Internet Device form factor championed by Intel–even if it runs a non-Intel CPU–but the most striking thing about MIDs so far is that that nobody who claims to make one has built anything that consumers want to buy in significant numbers. Apple made the Touch into a hit in part by blithely sidestepping all the mistakes the rest of the industry was making, such as trying to shoehorn full-strength operating systems onto tiny devices and giving them lame physical keyboards.
At this point in any story on Dell’s handheld plans, it’s mandatory to mention that it tried making MP3 players before and failed. But basing a new device on Android would be smart (it relieves Dell of most of the challenges of being a software company). And Dell picked up some interesting intellectual property and smart people when it acquired a mobile software/service company called Zing in 2007. Bottom line: Dell isn’t any more of an unlikely candidate to take in the iPod Touch than anyone else who seems to be planning to do so.