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Dell's plan for Zing

The PC maker bought the small audio streaming company in August and recently applied to trademark the name of an online portal. What does Dell have up its sleeve?

If you haven't heard of yet, you soon might.

It was recently registered by none other than Dell, which also applied for a trademark on the name. (Thanks to the Trademork blog for pointing to it.)

Zingspot is likely related to Zing Systems, a company that Dell acquired in August. is described in the document filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as "an online consumer portal for digital entertainment content acquisition and distribution." Being a hardware maker, it would make more sense to expect Dell to make a device rather than a service. Especially since the PC maker officially pulled out of the portable media player market in August 2006, at the time citing a need to focus more on PCs, TVs, and printers for consumers.

Dell had little to say when it acquired the tiny, Mountain View, Calif., company that makes streaming audio software. But almost four months later and with CES fast approaching, it's interesting to look at what Dell might be doing.

The company has had a tough year, but it seems to be turning things around. (We'll know better tomorrow when Dell is due to report third-quarter earnings.) In an effort to show that it's hip and relevant, the Texas PC maker has definitely been ratcheting up the emphasis on design--see the XPS M1330 and M1530 notebooks, and XPS One desktop--and on online communities with its IdeaStormand Direct2Dell blogs.

An online portal for entertainment seems to fit in there somewhere. But does it make sense to build another iTunes Store or Rhapsody, or a Zune store for that matter? Negotiating all those content relationships is a headache very few people want. And after all, Dell is a hardware company before anything else. Dell, by the way, declined to comment on any of its future plans for Zing or

But Zing makes a pretty nifty technology, one that SanDisk licensed for use in its Sansa Connect. It's software for real-time audio streaming--meaning you can get music wirelessly from an online source and from other portable devices. SanDisk, however, uses Yahoo's music service as its content source. So, either Dell will create its own portal or will partner with an already established online store if it does end up making a device that utilizes this software.

It's also worth noting that Zing is a pretty snappy-sounding brand name, and could lend that fresh, relevant tone to whatever they're cooking up down in Round Rock. Will we see a Zing brand on a forthcoming media player from Dell, or on a whole new family of devices? Stay tuned.