Dell announced recently that it plans to release the Streak tablet later in 2010. The device, which is designed to compete with Apple’s iPad, will run Google’s Android operating system and will hit store shelves in June in the United Kingdom, and later in summer in the United States.
Although the device will run 3G, Dell did not say which carrier it will partner with. It also failed to mention how much the device will cost. But it has revealed most of the device’s other details, including a 5-megapixel camera and a front-facing camera for those who want to enjoy video chats.
But there are so many holes in the Streak’s feature lineup that some might wonder why Dell is even attempting to release the tablet. Although it might appeal to some who love Android, it will likely fall flat when compared with the iPad.
That’s not a good thing for Dell. The company is trying desperately to break into what could become the next big frontier in computing, and offering a subpar alternative to the iPad just isn’t the best move. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Streak doesn’t have promise. But it does mean that Dell will need to do quite a bit to make the Streak match the iPad in the marketplace. Here’s why:
1. Say hello to a 5-inch screen
Apple’s iPad boasts a 9.7-inch display. Although that might seem small to some who are used to larger screens, it actually works quite well for a tablet. That said, most wouldn’t want to see the screen get any smaller. Unfortunately, the Dell Streak has a smaller display. According to Dell, the device will come with a 5-inch WVGA screen. In other words, it’s going to be tough to do anything on the device, let alone watch movies or television shows. Unfortunately, a 5-inch Streak seems more like a UMPC (Ultra Mobile Personal Computer) than a tablet. And that could come back to hurt the company.
2. It runs Android
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Google’s Android operating system. The iPhone OS competitor is quickly becoming a popular alternative to Apple’s software, and developers are rapidly expanding their support for the platform. But that doesn’t mean that it’s equal to what’s running on the iPad. iPhone OS is still the leader in the market. It’s also the standard by which all other touch-capable operating systems are judged. When average consumers think about tablets, they think about the iPad and iPhone OS. They’re not gravitating to Android OS.
3. Dell isn’t Apple
Sorry, but Dell just isn’t Apple. The company may be the world’s third-largest PC vendor and a household name, but it isn’t held in the same regard as Apple. When consumers consider mobile products that go beyond simple computing, they rarely spend time thinking about Dell. Instead, they think about Apple and why that company has done a better job than anyone else of delivering devices that consumers want to use. Dell looks like it’s trying to catch up to the iPad with the Streak. In no way is it trying to do something unique. That’s a problem for Dell, and it won’t get any better until it starts beating Apple at its own game.
4. The Streak won’t come with Android 2.2 out of the box
According to Dell, the Streak will launch with Android 1.6 when it’s made available, and will get the Android 2.2 update that Google recently announced once that’s available. That means the Streak won’t have Flash compatibility out of the box. And it also won’t have all the extra bells and whistles that make Android 2.2 so compelling. It’s entirely possible that consumers will view the Streak as the hobbled alternative to both the iPhone and Android alternatives. That’s never a good thing.
Go Big or Go Home
5. The app issue
According to Google, it now has about 50,000 applications available in the Android Market. But there’s one catch that could cause trouble for Dell and its Streak: Those apps are only designed for smartphones. In other words, folks who want to use apps that they like on an Nexus One or HTC Incredible will quickly realize that if the apps require smartphone functionality in any way, they won’t work on the Streak. Google has said developers will be coming up with applications for tablets in the future, but until then, don’t expect too many apps to work seamlessly with Dell’s tablet.
6. It’s a dime a dozen
The danger of using Android OS as the operating system in a tablet is that it will be viewed by some mainstream users as a derivative device. Soon enough, several Android-based products will be hitting store shelves in an attempt to take on the iPad and capture a significant portion of the tablet market. Dell will just be one of the many companies attempting that. And all the while, the only benefactor is Google, which will be able to tout the adoption of Android-based devices rather than focus on one device that can seriously challenge the iPad. Apple has sold over 1 million iPads so far. That’s unlikely to happen with the Streak. And part of that can be blamed on its OS.
7. Dell has lost its way
Dell has a long and storied history as a major player in the PC market. For a while, it was atop that space, easily besting Hewlett-Packard, Acer and every other vendor. But over the past few years, Dell has lost its way. HP has regained the top spot in the PC market and now Acer, once an also-ran in the marketplace, is the world’s second-largest PC manufacturer. Unfortunately for Dell, it has only itself to blame. It followed the same market strategy for too long, failing to see what was happening in the space. And now, with the Streak, it seems like the company is once again playing catch-up.
8. Dell’s mobile strategy has always been suspect
Like HP, Dell has always had a suspect history with mobile devices. The company’s Axim handhelds were outstanding products, but they were available when smartphones were taking off. And since they didn’t offer calling capabilities, they failed. Dell even tried its luck with an iPod competitor, and that failed. Now the company is trying to take on Apple with a tablet that, by just about any account, fails to match Apple’s tablet on almost every level. It’s hard to judge a company based on its past mistakes-just look at Apple-but it’s hard to forget how poorly Dell has done in the mobile business.
9. It’s one of many
Dell’s Streak will be just one of several tablets the company plans to release over the coming year. Speculation abounds over the release of its Looking Glass tablet, which is rumored to have a 7-inch display and more capable features. If consumers find out that Dell plans to offer better products in the coming months, that might wreak havoc on the Streak’s sales figures. After all, the 5-inch tablet is small, lacks power and is running what some consumers believe is a second-rate mobile operating system. If they know something bigger and better is coming along, why would they opt for the hobbled cousin?
10. The middle ground is no place to be
The Dell Streak is somewhere in the middle when it comes to tablets. It’s slightly larger than a smartphone, but it’s also much smaller than the top tablet on the market. That could cause trouble for Dell. Size really does matter in the computing industry, and to be the company that’s offering the product that’s too close to a smartphone is dangerous. That doesn’t necessarily mean that consumers won’t want to put the Streak in their pockets and bring it to work, but based on its size, some might be hard-pressed to see why they would choose the Streak over a smartphone.