The announcements from Dell underscore both the growing demand for wireless communication as well as the unlikely emergence of the pager as a chic, "must have" item for corporate executives. News of the deal leaked out last week at the Comdex computer trade show. The deal also marks the entry of Dell into actively selling non-PC devices.
The Blackberry pager, made by Canada's Research In Motion, allows users to receive and send emails, text documents and numerical messages.
The pagers, which are powered by a version of the Intel 386 processor that were used in PCs earlier this decade, also can maintain personal calendars or phone lists and can synchronize with the desktop PC. Put another way, the pagers perform many of the functions of a Palm Pilot handheld but come with built-in mobile communications.
"Our goal is to sell these into IT departments, which makes it a consultative sale," said a Dell spokesman.
The pager, which sells for around $399 not including monthly service fees, is about the size of a deck of playing cards and comes with a small screen for messages. Other companies offer pagers with similar capabilities. Most users wear it on their belts.
Belt-wearing pager adherents include Dell CEO Michael Dell, Compaq CEO Michael Capellas, several Intel and AMD executives and Carl Everett, senior vice president for the personal systems group at Dell.
"As the No. 1 U.S. supplier of PCs, Dell is committed to brining the best wireless technology to its customers and is taking an active role in developing this and other key technologies," said Everett in a prepared statement.
Dell will sell the device to its corporate accounts but may expand its efforts depending on the initial launch, sources close to Dell said. Dell will sell the pagers for $399 and charge $39.95 per month for service. The pagers will support Microsoft Exchange, a database program, and Microsoft Outlook for email.
By selling pagers, Dell will also inch closer toward its goal of being a pervasive supplier of digital equipment. CEO Michael Dell has said that the company plans to move more strongly into services, Internet access, content and even devices as a way to squeeze more opportunity from its customer base.
To date, Dell has taken a relatively conservative stance toward non-PC products. The company has not released a Windows CE-based handheld, for instance. The company does sell Palm OS-based handhelds, but on its Gigabuys Web site, on online store targeted mostly to small and medium-sized businesses. The Blackberry pagers, by contrast, will be pitched to customers through the Dell sales force.
RIM's stock has shot up since news of the Dell deal leaked last week. It closed today at $53, up from approximately $42 a week ago and above the early November price of $33.
In a related announcement, Dell said it would begin to install Aironet 4800 wireless networking products into its OptiPlex desktop line. The wireless cards will allow users to plug into corporate networks without wires. In September, Dell began to bundle Aironet products into its corporate notebook lines.
The Aironet card for notebooks will cost $199 for notebooks while the desktop version will sell for $329. In addition, Dell will sell a wireless base station that can support up to 50 users for $999.