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12/15/2010
11:11 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Dell's Venue Pro A Swelling Black Eye

Dell is having serious issues with its Venue Pro Windows Phone 7 handset. Delays and hardware glitches have marred what could have been a saving grace for Dell's mobile ambitions.

Dell's attempts to break into the smartphone business are off to an incredibly rocky start. The Aero, an Android smartphone, launched earlier this year to abysmal reviews. Now, the Windows Phone 7-based Venue Pro is plagued with manufacturing and shipping problems.

Early on December 14, one of Dell's forum moderators attempted to explain what's going on in a blog post. She wrote, "As you know, we’ve had several issues reported with this product. Right now, Dell is trying to coordinate a plan with Microsoft to address these issues for the early adopters. From what I understand, it may require another hardware swap. Further, the Venue Pros are being reworked in the factories to address some of the issues and we are awaiting these changes so the product can ship. This is affecting new orders as well."

Wait a minute, what? "Reworked in the factories" is not a good sign at all. Early adopters have reported problems with the Venue Pro's Wi-Fi performance. Obviously there's a problem that Dell is not owning up to directly. What is it? Is the Wi-Fi radio poorly designed? Is it a software issue? Is there a component problem?

The Dell forum moderator added, "Once we have good stock in place, then we have the ability to provide replacements. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a good estimate of when that will be. The news I hear changes daily and I hate to give you information that won’t be true tomorrow... While I agree that this was not the best mobile device launch, I hope you take comfort in the fact that there is a good reason for the delays - fixing issues."

I wouldn't take comfort in that reasoning at all. In fact, I'd ask for my money back and take my business elsewhere.

A second Dell employee confirmed later on December 14th that the shipping delays are real. He wrote, "Dell is ramping production as fast as we can. We're continuing to monitor our manufacturing and supplies and will make every effort to align shipments with arrival expectations. At this point, our most important focus is to deliver the right out-of-box experience so customers are happy with their purchase."

Take this news and the recent departure of Dell's mobile products guru, and it points to serious problems. Dell has long needed a solid mobile business plan, and it appeared to be on the right track with the Aero, Streak, and Venue Pro. Departing leadership, botched product launches and shoddy software make it clear that Dell's mobile business isn't going to take off any time soon.

Microsoft should be embarrassed by how poorly one of its few chosen WP7 launch partners is performing.

In the short-term, HP and its Palm smartphone division look a whole lot more promising for the mobile enterprise and connected consumer.

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