Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Dell's tablet approach...

Today, there are numerous media reports of the tablet PCs that Dell has announced. So far we have had the Dell Streak, a 5" model which has hardly set the world alight. This is unsurprising in my view, since it will be regarded by many as simply a bigger heavier smartphone. Now Dell has announced there will also be devices in the 3inch and 4inch range of screen size. If they are trying to compete, as most commentators suggest, with the iPhone and the iPad then this strategy seems flawed in the sense that it just seems to flood the market with different models. It seems as if they neither know what size is optimal for a particular purpose nor understand what people will want. The consequence will be limited sales of all of them.

However the most imminent arrival to join the Streak, is to be a 7inch model in the next few weeks. This is presumably in terms of the USA, which usually means a European and Worldwide rollout sometime afterwards. But I won't be buying one. The iPad is the right size for a tablet and smaller devices as a way of trying to meet a cheaper price point (the screen is a big percentage of the bill of materials for a device) is no way to compete with it head on. The larger screen of the iPad makes a difference, you just have to hold one in your hands to understand that. I believe that Apple will later compete with a smaller model themselves but that the larger existing one will remain the standard device that most people want.

Dell have additionally announced a 10inch model for 5-6 months time. This is an admission that it is the ideal size so why not launch that one first? By then the iPad will have consolidated its leading position ever further than the march it has already stolen.

And on software ... Dell have also announced that their tablets will run Android OS but that they will also launch models with Microsoft Windows. As with screen size, this seems rather muddled. They evidently can't decide which of the two systems will provide the best experience for users. And it will complicate the ability to run consistent apps across the various devices. With Android, we don't know which versions will be available, and once we do, the plethora of Android "open" devices hitting the marletplace will dangle a carrot that the nasty malware and virus creators will find hard to resist for long.

So the whole approach, hardware and software, seems to be muddled and confusing for the average man/woman in the street. Contrast this to the simplicity of iPad which it wishes to compete with. And that is before you even turn the device on. Yes, Dell will sell some tablets, as they have sold some Streaks already, but I remain unconvinced that their approach will compete adequately with Apple's iPad.

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