The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Dell ( DELL) Venue Pro may be the most interesting smartphone in the market today. Before you type that hate mail, note carefully that I said "most interesting" and not "best." It is far from the best smartphone, but nevertheless occupies a unique position in the smartphone world today, worthy of labeling it the most interesting.
SoftwareWith those things out of the way, I switch my commentary to the thing that is identical across all Windows Phone devices, as far as I can tell: The software. Providing a verdict on Windows Phone 7.5 is especially difficult, because the outcome depends very much on who the user is. One key problem we have today is that many people are already living inside the three other major smartphone ecosystems: iOS by Apple, Android by Google and BlackBerry by RIM. If you are already well-oiled inside any of those three other smartphone ecosystems, the hurdle to Windows Phone 7.5 is going to be much more significant than if you are getting it as your first smartphone. Let me give you some examples: 1. Google has an amazing set of cloud services, ranging from Reader to Plus to Voice to Talk to Docs to many more things. Very few, if any, of them are available on Microsoft Windows 7.5. I can only find Gmail (duh!) and search. That's bare-bones, and clearly not satisfactory for anyone contemplating a migration from Android.
DownsidesThere are some negatives, when compared to a BlackBerry. Take notifications, for example. All I want in terms of a notification is to be able to look at the phone, perhaps as much as half a room away, and see whether there is a big red blinking light or not. If it's blinking, it means I have an email. If it's not, no need to touch or otherwise pick up the phone. How difficult is this?
Critical JunctureWe are only one week away from the updated Windows Phone hardware being introduced and hitting the market, and at this point I see product only from HTC and Samsung. This makes me a little worried about Dell. Will there be a follow-on product to the Venue Pro, or is Dell offering the superb price of $300 SIM-unlocked just because it's selling out the remaining inventories? Is Dell getting out of the smartphone business? I have no idea. Dell could have a total winner on its hand by updating the Venue Pro in four ways: 1. Make it thinner and lighter, but without sacrificing battery life. 2. Include a front-facing camera for use with Tango, Skype and others. 3. Include a better WiFi chip, capable of being a hotspot. 4. Offer a version with 64 gig storage, so that it could compete with iPhone 4S. It is difficult to give the Dell Venue Pro a single grade. There are actually two main scenarios, and relatively few corner cases between them. For some people, it gets a score of 8 or 9 out of 10. Yet, for other people, it gets at best a lousy 4 out of 10. Under the following conditions, it could be right for you:
- You are relatively new to the smartphone world
- You are not dependent on Google's various cloud services such as Voice or Reader
- You are not an iTunes user
- You have fewer than 25,000 contacts
- You don't need to synchronize with USB cable to your Windows 7 PC
- You don't use videoconferencing services such as Tango and Skype
- You don't need your smartphone to serve as WiFi hotspot
- You will be on AT&T or T-Mobile USA