Confirmed: Dell PDA to Launch November 18

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Dell has added info to their site confirming the release of their AXIM A5 that will be available for order on the 18th. No word as to a ship date.
Dell has been teasing the market with bits & pieces of information on its upcoming handheld. We now have a fairly solid date on when we can expect to see these PDAs Dell has been alluding to.  An official launch of November 18 should be expected, during this launch Dell will  reportedly take the wraps off an entry-level and high-end handheld, both with color screens and we know one of the devices will be named the Axim X5.

Dell has been touring to brief press and analysts on the basic details of the new PDAs to be released, but they have not released specific hardware and pricing details.  Anthony Bonadero, director of worldwide mobile products for Dell, confirmed the company plans an “aggressive” move to quickly make Dell a major PDA player, more of which will be revealed on November 18.

Bonadero indicated that competitors have profit margins of 40 per cent right up to more than 70 per cent on PDAs, Dell considers this excessive. “That’s one of the things preventing these devices from being more widely adopted. Using our efficiencies, Dell can produce and sell them for significantly less, and that’s what we are going to do. This is going to bring the PocketPC down to the mass market level,” he added. “Nobody else has our cost structure advantage, and we can have a very healthy business and be profitable at these low price points. I expect we will cause a substantial price shift in the market, and we believe this is going to drive new growth [in PDA sales].”

In spite of Dell’s secretive approach to publicizing the new hardware, details are leaking out. According to information published by PDA site but not officially confirmed by Dell, for example, a 300 MHz version of the new device is expected to cost $199 (U.S.) and the 400 MHz model will sell for $299.  Such a pricing structure would severely undercut large players such as HP and Palm.

In a recent briefing for press and analysts, Dell said one of its primary goals is indeed to offer a “viable PocketPC alternative to Palm.” But Mr. Bonadero added that while Palm is one of the primary competitors from which Dell plans to grab quick market share, a partnership with Palm in the future is not out of the question, raising question to the fact that Dell might one day offer both Palm based device as well.  Bonadero commented that Dell “decided to go with the PocketPC operating system for our initial entry into this [palmtop] market. But with Palm porting its operating system to the Intel StrongArm architecture, the possibility of us producing a Palm OS-based model is not out of the question for the future.”

The first lot of Dell PocketPC devices will be manufactured under contract by Taiwan-based Wistron Corp, more than 15,000 units should be available at launch and the plan is to build 100,000 by the years end, and more if needed.  Michael Dell has reportedly insisted that Dell sell 30,000 devices before Christmas or he will “eat his hat.”

“Our goal for 2003 is to have at least a 25-per-cent [PocketPC] market share,” Mr. Bonadero added. “We believe we will ship up to one million units. But even that may be a low-ball estimate, based on our price point … Our president has said he’ll eat his hat if we don’t sell an absolute minimum of 30,000 before Christmas.”

The devices should both have a Compact Flash Type II and Secure Digital/MultiMedia Card expansion slot built-in, the new machines will have an average battery life that is comparable to the eight to 12 hours that can be expected from competing PocketPC units, and an extended battery will be available as an option. Dell is also considering include Compact Flash Wireless Cards and several types of portable keyboards.  In addition to all this, Dell is assuring top-level customer support in which they will offer next-day replacement of a broken PDA anywhere there is courier service.

Dell will also introduce new models early in 2003, expect to see a basic color model PDA for around $150 (U.S.) in 2003.



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