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Dell CEO Continues Backing Google, Microsoft Tablet Software

Dell Inc. Chief Executive Officer Michael Dell reaffirmed his backing for tablet software made by Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., issuing remarks viewed by analysts as a swipe at rivals such as Hewlett-Packard Co.

Google’s Android mobile operating system will get a boost from the company’s $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., Dell said during a conference call yesterday. He also said he’s been encouraged by the company’s early work on a tablet running Microsoft’s Windows 8 software.

“I don’t think beyond those two that there are viable alternatives that make sense,” Dell said. “So there’s a lot of other noise out there in the market that I don’t think will amount to much of anything.”

The remarks were a veiled criticism of Hewlett-Packard, owner of the competing WebOS mobile software, and Research In Motion Ltd., maker of the operating system used in BlackBerry phones and PlayBook tablets, said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc. in San Francisco.

“He’s taking an indirect swipe at Hewlett-Packard’s WebOS and RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook,” Wu said.

RIM, which has been losing market share and is threatened by Google’s purchase of Motorola, could be acquired by companies including Samsung Electronics Co., HTC Corp. or Dell to shore up their position in the smartphone and tablet markets, said Wu. Dell’s remarks didn’t quell speculation about a possible RIM buyout.

Hedge Bets

Dell may also be trying to hedge its bets between Android and Windows as the company tries to compete with the success of Apple Inc.’s iPad, which has been grabbing share from personal computer makers, said Brian Marshall, an analyst at Gleacher & Co. in San Francisco, who has a “neutral” rating on Dell shares.

“He doesn’t want to get hurt with Android, but is saying Windows 8 is looking good as well,” Marshall said.

Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility and its trove of 17,000 patents could help Google fend off litigation against Android by companies including Apple, Microsoft and Oracle Corp., Dell said yesterday.

“Certainly patents play a big role here, and having Android with a stronger ability to exhaust patent claims against it probably sets up an interesting competitive dynamic,” Dell said. “We’re still quite interested in Android. I’ll also tell that you our early work on Windows 8 on the tablet side looks to be pretty encouraging.”

Dell is planning new tablet computers that use either Android or Windows 8, due next year. The company’s current Streak tablets, which use an older version of Android, didn’t have broad consumer appeal, Dell executive Stephen J. Felice said in a June interview. The company has discontinued a version of the Streak with a 5-inch screen.

David Frink, a spokesman for Dell, declined to elaborate on the CEO’s comments.

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