Dell Exec: Apple's iPad Too Expensive and Complex for Businesses

Dell took to the offensive against Apple's iPad, with an executive claiming the rival tablet is too expensive and complex for the enterprise.

A Dell executive is attracting a massive amount of attention for suggesting the Apple iPad will eventually bomb in the enterprise.

"Apple is great if you've got a lot of money and live on an island," Andy Lark, who leads the global marketing efforts for Dell's Large Enterprise Group, told CIO Australia in a March 28 interview. "It's not so great if you have to exist in a diverse, open, connected enterprise; simple things become quite complex."

Part of the iPad's Achilles Heel, he continued, was the cost of the tablet with accessories: "An iPad with a keyboard, a mouse and a case [means] you'll be at $1,500 or $1,600; that's double of what you're paying. ... That's not feasible."

Questions aside of why one would need a mouse to navigate a touch-screen interface, Lark also advocated Dell's strategy for the tablet space. "We've taken a very considered approach to tablets, given that the vast majority of our business isn't in the consumer space," he said. "We've got a far more diversified footprint than some of these players."

Dell has taken something of a meandering path into the tablet market. In August 2010, the manufacturer released the 5-inch Streak to the U.S. market. Running Google Android, and capable of making phone calls, the device seemed to suffer something of an identity crisis: Was it a very small tablet, or a larger smartphone?

Dell obviously hoped the original Streak would appeal to an audience in the market for both types of device-and seemed willing to take the risk that, in attempting to hit that sweet spot between the two, the Streak would end up an also-ran in the tablet and smartphone categories.

In any case, Dell soon went back to the proverbial drawing board and produced the Dell Streak 7, a 7-inch tablet clearly designed to compete with the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Research In Motion's upcoming PlayBook. Like the other Android tablets hitting the market at the time, the Streak 7 runs Android 2.2 (or "Froyo"), which was developed for smartphones' smaller screens; as the device reached store shelves, Dell promised "over-the-air" software updates in the future, presumably to the tablet-optimized Android 3.0 (or "Honeycomb").

Corporate purchasing of tablets is expected to rise in 2011, according to both analysts and surveys. Near the end of 2010, ChangeWave Research surveyed some 1,641 business IT buyers and found that about 7 percent of corporations provided their employees with tablet PCs, a 1 percent rise from August, with another 14 percent expecting to make a tablet purchase in the first quarter of 2011. Apple's iPad constituted 82 percent of the market, followed by Hewlett-Packard with 11 percent and Dell with 7 percent.

Both Dell and Apple face substantial competition in the next few quarters from several aggressive competitors. Samsung is planning to release 8.9-inch and 10.1-inch revisions of its Galaxy Tab, LG Electronics is hard at work on the G-Slate, and RIM is hoping its PlayBook will appeal to both consumers and BlackBerry's traditional business audience. Motorola's Xoom, equipped with Google Android 3.0, attracted some buzz at its launch but sales numbers remain unclear.

With the iPad 2, Apple has the advantage of a blockbuster consumer product that employees will want integrated into their working lives. The Streak 7 hasn't sparked similar around-the-block lines, but-at least based on Lark's comments-it seems as if Dell will try and leverage its existing lines of business to make the tablet attractive to the enterprise.