Dell’s Streaky Tablet Strategy

An unidentified non-Streaky Dell tablet

Don’t get me wrong, Dell don’t exactly *need* a tablet PC right now. For a start, they don’t have the OS for it and in reality, the iPad is also too pricey for the mainstream Dell audience to shell out. They aren’t going to buy it instead of a laptop, for example.

However, if Dell let Apple get a year’s head start without anything competitive to show in the area, they wouldn’t end up competing with just the iPad but the iPad 2, some kind of Google machine and likely something from the likes of HTC, HP and co. too.

With this in mind,  they had to do something and quick. Android was really all they had to play with so I can only assume they chucked it onto a few form factors before collapsing in tears at the horrors of Android 1.6 vs the slick and clearly tablet-ready iOS.

Desperate Times

In such a situation, where you know you’ve got to get something out, it must have almost seemed a relief when someone suggested keeping the phone hardware in as a differentiator. The rescue became a strategy of apples and pears rather than apples and strangely proportioned smaller and less well designed open source apples.  It’s the equivalent of politicians skirting round the real answer to a probing question.

The (EDIT: existence of the) Dell Streak is a desperate mess driven by wider strategy concerns and conjured to fill a gap until the company can catch up. Would they be better off with nothing? Probably not. Is it ticking the “tablet story” box well enough for now? Probably as well as could be expected.

Tick Tock

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how the traditional computer business adapts to the shifting expectations of the consumer world.  If not in reaction to the iPad, most certainly when the likes of Google and other Android providers start to stir the waters for the mass market.

With Android 2.2 blowing away iOS in performance and Google’s Chrome OS seemingly the perfect match to the tablet philosophy, I’ve a feeling the best is yet to come and the Dell Streak will be resigned to the history books and top ten lists of obscure tech experiments.

- Max Tatton-Brown

July 23rd, 2010

  • http://twitter.com/c_davies Chris Davies

    Interesting arguments. I’ll have to admit to falling on the other side of the fence re. the Streak – I think that, while it’s destined to be a niche product (like 99% of tablets, breakout-iPad excepted) it actually delivers a differentiated user experience that falls nicely between smartphones and larger slates like the iPad. The 5-inch screen size (and a chassis only just bigger) is great for browsing, and the dimensions – particularly the slimness – make it a realistically pocketable device. Perhaps you’d feel silly talking on it at first, but it could legitimately replace your smartphone, which isn’t something you could say about the iPad.

    Problem is, people just love to compare anything and everything to the iPad, just because it has a reasonably sized touchscreen. Have you tried a PsiXpda, or a Nokia N800, or a Fujitsu U810, or any of the other compact UMPCs/MIDs with screen sizes far more in line with what the Streak offers? In that line-up, the battery life and usability (helped no doubt by using Android as the OS) make a far more convincing argument.

    I agree that Android 1.6 is a frustration (though the customisations Dell has made are pretty solid and should tide most users over until 2.x arrives) and the promised update later in the year can’t come too soon. Still, I’m glad that Dell aren’t sitting back and saying “oh, everyone likes the iPad, we’ll just make another one of those” (plus they’ve been working on it for ages, before the iPad made its official debut). Will lots of people buy one? No, probably not, but then again I don’t think I’d like to live in a tech world where we only had a single choice.

  • Max Tatton-Brown

    Thanks for your thoughts Chris, certainly agree with you about the variety point and that it’s the best execution I’ve seen so far of something that falls in the 5 inch zone.

    Look forward to seeing what comes next alongside it though and whether they can make it complimentary to the Streak experience. I suppose 2.2 should help with that once you can easily send links between devices.

  • http://www.flavors.me/crossy @crossy

    Interesting piece Max and obviously I can’t help myself but reply 🙂 and I would echo Chris’s comments above to some extent too.

    I have to say that phrases like “desperate mess” are probably used unwisely until you have used a Streak as much as you have used your iPad…assuming you haven’t had one on review that is?

    I would also point out that “getting something out” is actually the Steve Jobs method of production – set a date and stick out whatever is ready, whether it’s finished or not – fan boys will buy it now and then again later as well.

    I think the Streak vs iPad is a bit tricky because really it should be Streak vs iPhone (or any other smartphone for that matter).

    Anyway, strong MacMan that you are, I would have expected nothing less my friend! Gold star from Steve in the post! 🙂

    Crossy

  • Max Tatton-Brown

    Haha my Apple Fan days are increasingly behind me- I’m predominantly running Windows 7 on my Macbook now and would be investing in an HTC Desire if it weren’t for the fact Wildfire are giving us all iPhone 4s. Not to mention the embarrassing way they handled all this antenna business.

    I could have been clearer about the bits where I’m talking about Dell’s wider tablet strategy rather than the Streak in particular- perhaps my issue is with the former more than the latter. The Streak just ends up taking the flack because it’s the only tablet available right now.

    Likewise, “desperate mess” should have been in reference to the situation of its genesis rather than the device itself. From my dealings with it, it strikes me as a reasonable niche offering but its existence seems more valuable to Dell in the stopgap self-defence function than the “our users need this” sense.

    Hope that clears a few of the points up!

  • http://www.flavors.me/crossy @crossy

    How strange, my disclaimer didn’t make it on to my last post, perhaps because I put it in little brackets?

    Anyway, it should have read that I do in fact handle some of Dell’s PR in EMEA but that those were my owns views.

    I thank yow.

  • Saad

    Interesting article indeed, let’s not forget that that Dell’s Strategy also includes hardware for Windows Phone 7 series as well as Streaks 7 and 9 – the next few Months are going to be very exciting!