A prototype of a Dell smartphone seen at a China Mobile event. (Credit: Mobile.163.com)

Dell has confirmed it's developing mobile devices for China Mobile, the world's biggest wireless operator by subscribers, igniting speculation that the computer maker is getting ready to make its debut into the already highly competitive smartphone market.

Dubbed Mini 3i, the 3.5-inch touch screen device runs an Android-based operating system designed by China Mobile called Open Mobile System; it notably lacks Wi-Fi and is strictly 2G GSM.

Dell however, has not yet announced any smartphone for the China market.

Dell was there supporting China Mobile as a development partner. We did not confirm or announce anything, said Dell spokesman Matt Parretta.

There was, however, a proof of concept mobile device prototype shown off at the event, Parretta said.

Major PC makers, that have been competing in a tough market and under pricing pressure, have begun turning their attention to a new market for growth, smart phones, which are mobile devices that offer access to email and support other multimedia functions.

Hewlett-Packard Co., Taiwan's Acer Inc. and Asustek Computer Inc. have already launched handsets in an effort to diversify their product offerings and launch devices that fetch higher margins.