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.
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.
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.