Dell to enter smartphone market in China

The computer maker hasn't yet launched the device

Dell plans to start selling a mobile device in China but has not yet announced availability, it said on Monday.

Despite reports that it had introduced a new phone in China, Dell said that it has only confirmed that it is working on "mobile product development for China Mobile."

Dell did show off some phone prototypes at an event, but did not make any announcements about form factors or when it might introduce a product, said Andrew Bowins, a spokesman for Dell.

In fact, even though many photos of the prototype have appeared online and show that it is clearly a phone, Dell would not say that it is actually working on a phone. Instead it would only confirm "mobile product development" for the largest mobile operator in the world.

The Wall Street Journal quotes a China Mobile spokeswoman who says that Dell's new handset is called the mini31 and will support the operator's new applications store.

The computer maker supports China Mobile's Ophone development, which is an open mobile software platform for mobile Internet, Dell said. The company declined to say which operating system its device would use.

Past rumors have linked a Lenovo phone running Android with the Ophone name.

Dell was participating in a China Mobile event, where the operator announced its mobile application store, Bowins said.

Rumors of a new phone from Dell have been circulating all year. The computer maker once made a handheld device, the Axim PDA, but cancelled it in 2007.

Dell would not comment on whether it intends to introduce a phone in other regions beyond China. If it does, it would be entering an increasingly crowded and competitive market. The introduction of the iPhone, and subsequent challengers including the Palm Pre and Android devices, has changed customer expectations for how smartphones should look and what they should do. Still, the market for cell phones continues to grow and China is the largest cell-phone market in the world, so Dell may be hoping to capitalize on both trends.

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