Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Nintendo and Sony Breathe a Sigh of Relief: No Dell Handheld for Now

Well the PSP and DS are safe, at least for the moment. Dell stated earlier today that the media buzz created last week by their head of gaming, Abizar Vakharia, was just wishful thinking on our part:

"Dell is constantly evaluating new technologies. However, we have no plans to launch a gaming handheld at this time."
Sony and Nintendo breathed a sigh of relief, I'm sure, but my sigh was one of disappointment. Monopolies are obviously never beneficial for the consumer, but I've always liked it whenever there were at least three contenders for the crown in whichever field is in question. Makes the market more competitive, and less of a back-and-forth or leapfrogging exercise. Some may argue that the Nokia N-Gage should be considered the third contender in the handheld market, but is barely recognized as a gaming platform, and really doesn't hold a candle to the PSP or DS platforms in terms of market share. Perhaps a heavily used matchstick, but not a candle.

While some have been quick to point out that Dell didn't say that they weren't going to produce a gaming handheld, I can't show the same amount of optimism that seems to be permeating the blogosphere regarding the subject. Yes, it's possible that Dell may enter the foray at some point. And no, Vakharia's statement about a handheld being "on the radar" doesn't directly conflict with Dell's denial of such a device being on the drawing board. But I think that Dell's radar is what some might call "vast" or perhaps just "big". Regardless, in this analogy, a gaming handheld whose possible existence at some undetermined point in the future was vaguely hinted at by a man whose job is to be in charge of everything related to gaming at one of the largest computer vendors in the world is doubtless one blip amongst thousands on that big green screen that he glances at throughout his day.

I'm not saying it will never happen. I was actually a bit excited whenever Mr. Vakharia said that it was a possibility. But Dell's statement today has curbed my enthusiasm for the moment. Honestly at this point I think that someone at Dell has a good idea of how they'd like to design a gaming device, but it's just a fantasy that they hope to someday be able to get the go-ahead to work on. I can think of a lot of reasons that Dell should make a PSP-killer, most of which I outlined in my original article and in above in this one. And it wouldn't be as difficult for them as one might imagine. Dell already makes their own displays, many of which have received glowing reviews from PC magazines (for example, they hold Maximum PC's title for "Best of the Best" Widescreen LCD monitor). They're currently ranked #25 in revenue in the US, and have the ability to manufacture products well, and in large numbers. For this reason I think that (if and when they decide to move forward with a handheld gaming platform) while their device wouldn't be a PSP- or DS-killer in the strictest sense of the word, they would very likely break into the market with a competitively priced, quality product that would steal (and keep) a decent amount of market share.

I think that consumers are ready for another option, and Dell has the brand-name power to sway initial buyers. But for now, everything's speculation and birthday wishes. Anyone holding their breath on this one is sparing oxygen for the rest of us that probably wouldn't be put to intelligent use anyway.

- Glock