Dell may be late to the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 party, but it's about to ensure its Venue Pro touchescreen slider handset has a flying start. The PC giant is in the process of replacing the BlackBerry devices issued to staff with Dell Venue Pro smartphones. 

Adam Griffin, Dell's UK-based product marketing manager for mobility products, told PC Advisor yesterday that the Windows Phone 7 handset will launch in the next few months. The Venue Pro is already onsale in the US on the T-Mobile network. However, Dell is in discussions with European mobile operators and has not announced which - if any - carriers will offer it. 

The Windows Phone 7 smartphone platform was unveiled in October, with Dell listed as one of the manufacturers that would be offering a device based around it. However, at that time Dell had no firm timescale for a European launch. Now, it seems, the Venue Pro could be arriving in the UK as soon as the end of February. 

Later in the year Dell will also launch an Android 2.2 Froyo handset known as the Venue. Similar in design to the Pro model, the Venue handset is slimmer by virtue of being a pure touchscreen device with only a software keyboard. 

We were briefly able to try out the Dell Venue Pro for ourselves at Mobile World Congress and were surprised by how heavy it is. With a slide-out keyboard concealed by a vast 4.1in Gorilla Glass screen, the Venue Pro is 15mm thick and weighs 192g. The upside of the handset is that its keys are correspondingly large. They aren't quite as large as the software keys on the Apple iPhone, but they are certainly a lot larger than those of the redesigned Palm Pre, for example. Dell has gone with subtly raised but flat-on-top keys - a design we found decent for peck and hunt typing. 

The Dell Venue Pro has 512MB of RAM, a 5Mp camera and runs off a 1GHz processor. Wi-Fi 802.11n, 3G, Bluetooth 2.1 and quad-band GSM are all included. However, aside from the huge screen it's the media management that sets the Dell apart from other Windows Phone 7 devices we've seen. When the Dell Venue Pro was unveiled late last year, some commentators pointed out that it had no tethering or USB-synhronisation features - something the Dell Stage overlay looks set to address. 

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