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Dell sells Android dream to corporate types

Windows? We do that too...

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KACE Konference One-time Windows stalwart Michael Dell has made the case for making and managing mobile devices running Android and OSi in the enterprise.

Speaking at the KACE Konference in San Francisco, California, Dell embraced devices running Google's rival to Microsoft's Windows: Android.

With a grin, Dell produced Dell mobile after Dell mobile from the pockets of the jacket and jeans he was wearing while speaking on stage at the Konference.

Three devices were running Android - one phone he whipped out was the Dell Streak - and just one, the Venue Pro released on Monday, ran Windows Phone 7. Each was a different form factor, with one unidentified Android device due to be launched Wednesday for sale in emerging markets.

Dell is working on CDMA and 4G phones, he said, to complement the initial range of GSM devices.

Appearing on stage with KACE chief executive and co-founder Rob Meinhardt, Dell also hinted at plans to deliver software on an appliance so organizations can manage Android and smart phones like PCs and Macs in the workplace.

KACE – bought by Dell in February – launched an iPhone management module for its KBOX Systems Management Appliance nearly two years ago, before Dell swooped in. The company specializes in the KBOX appliance to manage and provision PCs and Macs.

Asked by a Konference audience member whether Dell planned a management suite for smart phones, Dell and Meinhardt hesitated before responding "yes".

"These are little computers," Dell said. "They have operating systems... but organizations are having to figure out how to manage these new computers. So, yes, we are absolutely focused on that problem. That will be me multi platform - Apple, Android, Microsoft."

Meinhardt added: "We definitely have on our roadmap Android support and we have some basic iPhone support. You will see extended Windows mobile device support in the KACE platform."

Meanwhile, Dell plans a 10-inch tablet running the Honeycomb version of Android next spring. A Windows table, too? Dell wasn't exactly clear.

"There's a lot of work on the Windows side to create future versions of Windows that are optimized for the touch interface," Dell told the Konference.

That could either be a reference to Dell's hybrid tablet Duo running Windows 7, or it could be a rather more oblique reference to Microsoft's expected work on Windows 8.

Dell was unequivocal in why his traditionally PC- and server-oriented company's moving into the manufacture of mobile devices and management of machines running a mix of mobile operating systems: opportunity.

He claimed there are five billion people on the planet currently in possession of cell phones and just a couple of hundred million smart phone users. In the next five to seven years, "almost all five billion will figure out they would like to have a smart phone too."

Managing these burgeoning nodes on enterprise networks will be something enterprises will need to take care off - providing security and software updates. "The big question for the IT folks is how do you manage and secure that," Dell said.

He made it clear it's in Dell's interests to serve as many customers as possible and called it "impractical" to think of customers running homogenous environments. ®

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