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Dell Says 'Me Too, Me Too!'

Monday, 10 Aug 2009 | 3:42 PM ET

Will they or won't they? TechCrunch, from an admittedly "thin" though historically accurate source says they will.

They, in this case is Dell , and the topic of conversation is a new 3G touch screen smart phone headed to the China market.

I don't know what part of marketplace suicide Dell doesn't understand, but this appears to be one of those big time business blunders ready to happen. If it happens at all.

The story goes that Dell is days away from releasing a 3G phone into the Chinese market. Nevermind that we all have watched, waited and wondered about Dell's fanciful plans for a smart phone entrant for years. Those holding their breath anticipating Dell's smart phone candidate died off long ago. There was talk for some time that Dell was on the hunt to buy Palm , which could have been a match made in heaven when Palm was readying the Pre and shares were in the $3 range. Then, there was talk earlier this year that Dell would go it alone, and release a phone of its own design, running Google's Android operating system.

Of course, we all know where that went. Collins Stewart analyst Ashok Kumar, who couldn't hold a punch even if he tried, wrote in April that Dell couldn't find a carrier for its "non-compelling product with a roadmap that lags competition."

It's that last part of the line that captured my attention against the backdrop of today's TechCrunch speculation.

Why?

Because had Dell released its 3G version of its smart phone in April, it stood a chance of capturing some market share. Maybe. Today however, with HTC preparing at least three new 3G smart phones running Android for the Chinese market; with Apple's iPhone coming to China Unicom shortly; with a number of other 3G phones coming to China Mobile; and heaven only knows what else from whom, Dell is behind the competitive 8-ball, especially in China.

And yet there's speculation that the company's first foray into the smart phone biz is targeted directly at that market. Sure, it's possible that Dell has come up with a nifty little device that really will take on the Apple, Nokia , Research in Motion juggernauts.

But isn't that what Palm is trying to do with the Pre?

No one seems to disagree that the Palm Pre is a cool little device. Maybe a tad fragile, if you believe the blogs, but cool nonetheless. Palm will be the first to tell you, with a couple of months of sales on its balance sheet, that stealing market share from the big boys is no easy feat.

There's no shame in trying. And Dell won't know until it actually does come up with a handset that we can hold, and try, and evaluate. But with so much interest in whether Dell will or won't, I'd be surprised if the company unveils its long-anticipated smart phone with first availability in of all markets, China.

Stranger things have happened, and we've seen Dell misstep before. It's just not often that we see a misstep like this well before it actually happens.

Meantime, Dell should have bought Palm when it had the chance. And Apple continues to watch the competition scramble for scraps.

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com

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