Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 and Google's Android OS will emerge as the only real alternatives to Apple's dominant iPad in the tablet market, according to Dell CEO Michael Dell.
Speaking to analysts and journalists Aug. 16 in a conference call to announce the company's second-quarter financial numbers, Dell said that Google's Android platform will benefit from the search giant's $12.5 billion bid for Motorola Mobility. Responding to an analyst's question about the deal, Dell said Android and Windows will become the only real challengers to Apple.
"We're still quite interested in Android," he said. "I'll also tell you that our early work on Windows 8 on the tablet side looks to be pretty encouraging. So we think it's shaping up to be a competitive environment. I don't think beyond those two ... there are viable alternatives that make sense. So there's a lot of other noise out there in the market that I don't think will amount to much of anything."
Dell didn't name names, but that "other noise" most likely means Hewlett-Packard's webOS-based TouchPad offerings and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion's QNX-based PlayBook tablets, both of which reportedly are suffering from sluggish sales.
Systems makers are trying to gain a foothold in a tablet space dominated by Apple and its iPad. And the numbers show why: market research firm Gartner is predicting that tablet sales will jump from about 70 million this year to 294 million by 2015. However, right now, outside of Apple's iPad, no other tablet is catching fire. Just weeks after launching their webOS-based TouchPad, HP officials cut the price by $100.
Many of the other tablets released in recent months to challenge the iPad are seeing a so-so response from buyers. Still, Android-based tablets may now make up as much as 20 percent of the overall market, according to ABI Research.
"Many vendors have introduced media tablets, but none are separating themselves from the pack to pose a serious threat to Apple," ABI Research Mobile Devices Group Director Jeff Orr wrote in an Aug. 11 statement. "In fact, most have introduced products at prices higher than similarly configured iPads."
For its part, Dell has opted for the Android OS in its line of Streak tablets. However, the company has discontinued its original 5-inch Streak, which seemed to suffer from an identity crisis, with many asking whether it was a large smartphone or a small tablet. Dell is putting its energies behind its 7-inch version, which is more in line with what Apple offers with the iPad.
However, Dell is expected to roll out tablets based on Microsoft's yet-to-be-released Windows 8 operating system sometime in 2012. When they would launch is up in the air, given that it is unknown exactly when Microsoft will release Windows 8.
The Motorola deal not only would boost Android in the tablet world, Dell said, but it also will give Google much-needed patent protection as it tries to fight off legal challenges from such rivals as Apple, Oracle and Microsoft. Motorola reportedly would come with as many as 17,000 patents.
"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," he said.