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Dell Ends US Mobile Device Initiative, Shifts Focus to Enterprise and Higher-Margin Laptops

Dell representatives have confirmed an internal memo dated March 8th that confirms that the Dell Venue and Venue Pro smartphones have been officially discontinued as of this month and that mobile devices will shift away from the highly competitive North American market and move to emerging markets such as Latin America, China and India, where local variants of the Venue Android and Venue Pro Windows Phone smartphones are already available as well as variants of its discontinued Streak line of Android tablets.

When asked why Dell discontinued the Venue line of smartphones, the manufacturer admitted that the phones had run their course internally and that the lifecycle for phones was much shorter in the US than in the aforementioned emerging markets, while admitting that it would rather focus on its core enterprise businesses in the US and work to increase profit margins on its high-end laptop lines. Dell did not discount the possibility of re-entering the consumer-oriented mobile device market at a later date, with rumors of yet another attempt at mobile devices powered by the forthcoming Windows 8 operating system.

Dell’s latest and ultimately failed attempt to re-enter the mobile market began with the two pronged strategy of releasing Android-powered tablets in the Streak 5 and 7 with carrier partnerships as well as standard Wi-Fi only models, with AT&T and T-Mobile releasing their own variants of the Streak 5 and Streak 7 to great fanfare, only to have them fail in the marketplace compared to the strength of Android tablets from more established manufacturers such as Samsung. The Dell Streak 5 and 7 were heavily criticized for launching with the smartphone oriented Android 1.6 and 2.2 operating systems with heavily customized user interfaces that attempted to mask the limitations of the operating systems in the Stage user interface.

In fact, sales of the carrier subsidized versions of the Streak 5 and 7 were so low that both AT&T and T-Mobile actively refused to invest in updates for their respective devices in the Streak 5 and Streak 7 4G, leaving owners to fend for themselves in terms of updates via the Android hacking and modding community, compared to owners of the unsubsidized Wi-Fi versions which received their respective updates to FroYo and Honeycomb respectively last year.

The lack of updates for the carrier subsidized versions may have been the tipping point for Dell to pack in its US mobile device operations for the time being, as it discontinued the Streak 5 last Summer and only recently discontinued the Streak 7 as of last December, with the Honeycomb 3.2 update being the final update for the Wi-Fi version.

Dell also attempted to enter the equally competitive global smartphone market, first with the Android-powered Venue and then signing on with Microsoft and T-Mobile to release one of the first Windows Phone models in the Venue Pro. Unfortunately for Dell, its strategy for the release of the Dell Venue Pro doomed the device to commercial failure from the time it was launched, as it was initially exclusive to the Microsoft Store, both online and through its very limited retail footprint before being given a wider release at the beginning of 2011.

The phone also suffered a botched release thanks to last-minute hardware issues only discovered after customers had purchased the phone and attempted to use the built-in Wi-Fi radio, leading Dell and T-Mobile to issue a recall of devices and launch an exchange program for affected customers. While initially critically praised for its hardware and performance outside of the Wi-Fi issues, the phone still failed to make a commercial impact as the Windows Phone platform initially struggled and continues to struggle in the face of the market dominance of Android and the iPhone.

Dell also released AT&T compatible versions of the Venue Pro along with unlocked versions soon after the wider availability of the T-Mobile version, but they still failed to make any significant impact in terms of sales, as all three versions can routinely be found for sale on Ebay for ~$250 new in box and much less used.

On the subject of updates, Dell is remaining silent on future update support for either the Android-powered Venue and the Windows Phone Venue Pro as the next major update in Windows Phone Tango will be released next month in the US to coincide with the launch of the highly anticipated Nokia Lumia 900 with LTE support.

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