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More details on Dell's supposed smartphone

Engineers have been working on the phones for more than a year, The Wall Street Journal reports, with one prototype built on Google's Android operating system and another on Windows Mobile.

We've been hearing rumors of a Dell smartphone for a while now, but The Wall Street Journal gave more shape to the speculation with a report Thursday that the PC maker "has had a group of engineers working on the phones for more than a year from an office in the Chicago area."

Michael Dell
Michael Dell has dropped smartphone hints in the past. Dell

The paper quoted sources close to the plans as saying the team produced prototypes built on Google's Android operating system and Microsoft Windows Mobile (which would you prefer?). One model has a touch screen but no physical keyboard, a la Apple's iPhone, the WSJ says, while another is a slider-style device with a keypad that slides out from under the screen.

Reiterating Dell's earlier tight-lipped stance on the matter, a Dell representative said the company hasn't disclosed any such plans, adding "we haven't committed to anything."

But the WSJ says the smartphone development team spent much of last year meeting with suppliers of phone components, phone software companies, and Asian phone manufacturers.

Amid a drop in PC shipments, smartphones are a logical horizon for PC makers to eye.

While not all smartphones are faring equally well, the sector overall is still healthy. Growth was at about 50 percent until recently. It is still at a 10 percent to 15 percent growth level at the moment--and that marks a healthy market, according to Jeff Kagan, a wireless and telecommunications industry analyst.

"So will Dell devices hit a home, run or will they just hit a single? That is the big question," he said. "We won't know until we know more about it. So much depends on the device."

Dell's been out of the handheld business for over a year and a half, but there have been signs it's been testing the waters, such as its acquisition of streaming-audio software maker Zing Systems in August.