What's that smell, Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) ?
It's the scent of failure, but I don't expect Michael Dell to notice it.
This morning's Wall Street Journal is reporting that the languishing computer manufacturer may be diving -- or perhaps belly flopping -- into the smartphone market as early as next month.
Sources are telling the paper that the company has produced prototypes, leaning on the mobile operating platforms of both Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) .
If I were you, I wouldn't be waiting breathlessly for an iDell, a Dell Bell, or a DellBerry.
It's just not going to happen. The Journal also wrote that Dell was ready to reenter the portable media player market last summer. Those plans were apparently scrapped, and it's easy to see why. Dell failed in that space a few years earlier when the Dell DJ and Dell Ditty were rendered irrelevant in a world of iPods.
Why does Dell believe it has a chance in the high-end wireless market? Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) is in too deep and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) is way too cool.
I see the logic. If Dell can make a ripple in the flat-panel television market -- because, really, they're just oversized computer monitors -- why not smartphones? Aren't they just pocket-netbooks? And with Dell being an active seller to leading companies, it already has a thick enough Rolodex to creep into BlackBerry's corporate stronghold.
But in the end, it won't matter. If Dell doesn't bring something exciting and new to the table, it will whimper away with its tail between its legs. The more public the flop, the more damaging it is to a company that still needs to market its bread-and-butter wares to Corporate America.
Sure, Dell isn't exactly a generic vanilla PC vendor: It earned mega-style points with the purchase of Alienware three years ago. However, just as I would be shaking my head if PC leader Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) was pondering a similar move, I can't discuss the birthing process without writing the obituary first.
Forget about the current players in an already overcrowded market for a moment. If the argument is that smartphones are small netbooks, what does Acer -- the netbook leader -- have to say about this? Oh, that's right. It's rolling out a smartphone in two weeks.
Why even bother with the belly flop, Dell? There's no open space in the busy pool for you to land.
Other doleful ditties from Dell: