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Dell smartphone rumors

As everyone knows, Dell is late to the smartphone party. Very late. In fact, it hasn't even arrived yet and Apple just debuted its third-gen iPhone 3G S.

While rumors of Dell's entry into the mobile phone market have been simmering for months, the PC maker has been vague about its intentions. We know the company will launch a handset before the end of the year, but the details are fuzzy.

Speaking of fuzzy, an out-of-focus photo showing a Dell-labeled phone apparently running Google's Android OS is making the rounds of tech rumor sites. Forum buzz says the photo originated at Chinese site PDAfans, according to Engadget, but good luck finding it now.

The image shows a touchscreen-style device, more reminiscent of the T-Mobile G1 or Samsung Omnia than of the iPhone, although it's unclear whether the handset has a physical, slide-out keyboard. As looks go, it's nothing special. The Android connection isn't a surprise either, as Dell has reportedly been working on prototypes that run the Google OS or Windows Mobile.

If the photo's real, it raises questions about Dell's capability to design a handset that's distinct from its competitors. Last March, Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu reported that Dell had cancelled a smartphone project because the design was too dull and failed to impress wireless carriers.

Then again, looks may not matter as much as industry-watchers believe. After all, the G1 isn't exactly a jaw-dropper, but its clunkiness hasn't stopped it from being a major success.

Given the stiff competition in this summer of smartphones, however, Dell may need to try harder to contend with such eye-catching handsets as the iphone 3G S, Palm Pre, Samsung Omnia Pro, and the G2. The company doesn't need another DJ Ditty.

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