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Dell Wisely Chooses Emerging Markets for Smartphone Play

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Dell Mini 3
Dell (s dell) has finally made its smartphone play official, saying it will target users in Brazil and China with a new Android-based handset dubbed the Mini 3 by the end of the year. It’s a smart strategy — the company’s existing presence in both countries could make for a smooth entry into the cutthroat smartphone space.

The Round Rock, Texas-based computer vendor said it will release the Mini 3 through China Mobile later this month; the phone will be available through the Brazilian operator Claro by the end of the year. The announcement ends two years of rumors of a Dell smartphone. The company offered few details about the handset other than the fact that it rocks a three-and-a-half-inch high-definition screen and forgoes a physical keyboard in favor of a touchscreen.

While a move into mobile is overdue, Dell faces a daunting task in differentiating itself from the increasingly crowded Android bandwagon. But the company is wise to enter the difficult Chinese market with China Mobile, which claims 500 million subscribers and — more importantly — with which it already has an established relationship. Dell earlier this year became the first mobile PC manufacturer to embed China Mobile’s 3G technology and services into its netbooks and, according to the company, has become the leading seller of netbooks through retail outlets in China. Dell also has a longstanding presence in Brazil, where it opened a $100 million-plus plant two years ago.

The relationship with China Mobile will be particularly crucial as Dell enters the smartphone space. China’s position as the world’s largest mobile market is well documented, but the region is teaming with potential pitfalls, including an active gray market and heavy government regulation. Apple (s aapl) is quickly — and painfully — becoming familiar with such hurdles via the Chinese launch of the iPhone. If Dell can leverage its existing relationships in China, the company could quickly establish a foothold in a massive market. And that foothold could be the first step in building a global presence in the increasingly competitive smartphone segment.

14 Responses to “Dell Wisely Chooses Emerging Markets for Smartphone Play”

      • joeworker

        I am saying that one of the great things about Android is that it helps get new, inexpensive devices with rich feature sets into the hands of consumers who in the past would have been stuck with some sort of featurephone. Not all devices, particularly those built to a price point, will be aspirational devices. I am sure that this Dell will delight most of the people who end up getting one.

  1. I don’t understand this article.

    The entire post was explaining that Dell has relationships in Brazil and China. Last I checked Dell has plenty of relationships, history, experience, familiarity, etc. in lots of places (US, Europe, Asia, Etc.) other than China and Brazil.

    I didn’t see anything in the post that actually talked about why China / Brazil vs other countries is a wise move.

    It seems implied that playing in the big leagues (US, Europe) would be too difficult and that Dell is choosing to go to the minor leagues. Am I reading this wrong?

    • Colin Gibbs

      True, Dell has a worldwide footprint. But the fact that it has an established mobile distribution partner with a huge customer base in China could be a huge asset as it moves into smartphones, particularly given that market’s unique challenges.

      As for the baseball metaphor: The iPhone has caught fire in the West, BlackBerry remains the device of choice for many professionals and Android is quickly gaining momentum. I think it’s easy to see why a newcomer would target the low-hanging fruit of untapped markets before taking on established players in the U.S. and Europe.