Dell's decision last year to stop selling the 5- and 7-inch Streak tablets apparently did not end the systems maker's plans for the form factor.
In an interview with Reuters Jan. 11, Steve Felice, Dell's chief commercial officer, said the company will re-enter the highly competitive tablet space with a consumer device in late 2012, though he would not say on what platform the tablet would be built-Google's Android or Microsoft's Windows 8, which is due for release later this year.
What Felice did say, though, was that Dell officials have learned from the relative failure of the myriad tablets on the market that were designed to challenge Apple's dominant iPad, and that they are incorporating those lessons learned in developing their current tablet strategy. Dell stopped selling the Streak 7 in December 2011, a few months after it ended sales of the Streak 5. Both Android-based devices were more business-focused.
Other OEMs have been rolling out tablets that more directly challenge Apple's consumer-focused iPad, with limited success. Most, such as Samsung and Motorola, have relied on the Android mobile OS, while others-in particular, Hewlett-Packard with webOS and Research In Motion with its BlackBerry operating system-have used other platforms.
With the consumer tablet, Dell is being patient and carefully planning the device, Felice said. In particular, he said, was that customers buying a tablet are interested in a different user experience than when they're buying a PC.
"We have been taking our time," he told Reuters during an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show. "You will see us enter this market in a bigger way toward the end of the year. So we are not really de-emphasizing it, we are really being very careful how we enter it. When you are talking about the PC, people are more focused on the hardware itself. When you are talking about the tablet or the smartphone, people are interested in the overall environment it's operating in."
Dell is spending more time concentrating on the "overall ecosystem," he said.
Whether that will be an Android or Windows ecosystem is unclear, with Felice giving little indication. However, he did say he was impressed with the touch features coming in Windows 8.
"We like Windows 8, but we continue to develop with Android as well," Felice said. "We are still going to be more choice-driven, based on the feedback we get from customers."
Analysts have pointed to the rise in the popularity of tablets as a key factor in slowing PC sales worldwide over the past year. However, even as they look to build tablets to challenge the iPad, systems makers also are pushing forward with new ultrabooks, very thin and light notebooks that offer the same functionality of traditional notebooks with features-such as instant-on capabilities and long battery life-of tablets.
Ultrabooks were a key focus at CES this year, and Dell at the show rolled out its own offering, the XPS 13. Dell officials are saying the ultrabook, which will be available in the United States at the end of Feburary, will have a starting price of $999.