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The rumors of computer giant Dell teaming up with Google to produce an Android-powered mobile phone are a nice break from all the iPhone hooplah, but folks, it’s not going to happen. Thanks to its hiring of Ron Garriques, the former head of Motorola’s handset business, and its August acquisition of Zing, Dell has all the pieces in place to do something cool with consumer technology. But isn’t likely to. In fact, we’ve been here before.
When Dell purchased Zing last year it got technology that streams music and video content to a handheld device via Wi-Fi. The Zing software connects to a variety of content providers with which Zing had signed deals, such as Yahoo and YouTube — there’s no browser, just a direct connection to the content over Wi-Fi. It also scored a management team led by Tim Bucher, who helped develop the iMac at Apple. The team of former TiVo, Microsoft, Napster and Palm executives wanted to unlock content from devices. So the dream of some kind of open consumer gadget (maybe a tiny, cheap cloud computer for emerging markets) from Dell is hard to kill.
But when it come to the consumer, Dell has flopped. Reinstated CEO Michael Dell said upon Garriques’ hiring that the new exec would “…create a new global consumer organization that will set new standards for innovative product design.” So far the company has shifted its distribution strategy to include retail stores (huge, but not earth-shattering, from a product standpoint) and was pretty low-key at CES. Meanwhile it has bought three enterprise software companies and storage company EqualLogic. Consumer is about 10 percent of its sales, so Dell can’t afford to take its eye off the enterprise ball as it manages its turnaround.