Dell 7-Inch Android Tablet Is No Streak Replacement

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-09-26

Dell 7-Inch Android Tablet Is No Streak Replacement

When Dell CEO Michael Dell unveiled a prototype of a 7-inch Android tablet computer Sept. 22 at Oracle OpenWorld, he generated more questions than answers.

When will it appear? How much will it cost? Will carriers distribute it, or will Dell sell it direct and solely? Will it run Android 2.2 like Archos' lineup or the Samsung Galaxy Tab? How will it differentiate from those tablets, as well as Apple's smash-hit iPad?

Moreover, is the 7-inch tablet designed to phase out the Dell Streak, whose 5-inch screen form factor some analysts see as too big for a phone and too small for a tablet?

Analysts said Dell's 7-inch tablet is par for the course for a computer company accustomed to taking a strong position in a PC industry that has been revitalized in recent years, first by netbooks and now by flat computers with touch screens.

Gartner Research analyst Carolina Milanesi said if the Dell device could support the Android 3.0 operating system release expected later this year, she suggested Dell should go with a 10-inch display instead of the 7-inch display the Galaxy Tab offers.

Android 3.0 is optimized for tablet computers. Android 2.2, by Google's own admission, is not.

Moreover, a 7-inch machine is closer to a smartphone than a tablet, Milanesi said, noting that the 5-inch Dell Streak has not sold well where she is based in the U.K.

Dell launched the Streak in the U.K. in July. Dell sells the device online for $549.99, or $299.99 with a two-year contract from AT&T. Best Buy will begin selling next month.

Milanesi said the 5-inch form factor offered by the Streak will not be a successful one "as it is almost too big for your pockets and not big enough to give you a richer experience than a 3.2- or 3.5-inch screen. A 7-inch screen does not improve things much."

Good thing Dell is already working on a larger-screen convertible tablet/netbook, the 10-inch Inspiron Duo, which Dell's David Zavelson demonstrated at the Intel Developer Forum Sept. 14. As with the 7-inch device, little else is known about this machine.

Analysts Debate Streak Viability with 7-Inch Tablet Coming


However, IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian said the 7-inch Dell tablet won't necessarily render the Streak moot because they have different use cases.

Kevorkian views the Streak as a smartphone, while the 7-inch tablet will be counted as a media tablet. For example, the larger display is likely to be optimized for extended video viewing, Web browsing and reading sessions.

"Dell's reputation and distribution channels certainly position it to be a contender in the media tablet market, but in terms of execution the devil will be in the details, few of which have been announced," Kevorkian said.

She added that the Streak's form factor has shortcomings that may lead to its demise, independent of additional Dell tablet introductions, given competition from other smartphones.

Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies added that it's not fair to single out the Streak yet as obsolete because of Dell's impending 7-inch and 10-inch tablets.

For example, Kay said Dell positions the Streak, which boasts Google Maps Navigation, as a great in-car navigation device. The 5-inch display makes it easier to see the digital map when it's mounted on the car dashboard or window.

Kay said the promise of a 7-inch tablet does not mean Dell is abandoning the Streak or the 5-inch form factor in general. 

Regardless, consumers will let Dell know fairly quickly if a device is hot or cold. Apple can attest to the hot factor, selling more than 3 million iPads in just a couple months.

Kay noted that almost any tech product introduced these days goes out of date pretty quickly. Machines will catch on, or they won't.

"Tailing-edge stuff that is already pass??« needs to be discounted, moved off shelves and refreshed, and that's what I would expect. Dell has not abandoned the 5-inch space."

Rocket Fuel