Do We Finally Have an iPad Killer?

Look out, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) ! Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) -- yes, that Dell -- is about to make a big splash in tablets.

I'm not talking about the Streak, a tweener that's too big to be a smartphone, yet too small to be a serviceable tablet.

Dell's real head turner may be its Inspiron Duo, which will reportedly begin shipping early next month -- just in time for the telltale holiday shopping season.

The Inspiron Duo is yet another tweener, but this time Dell is bridging the gap between netbook and tablet. It is essentially a netbook with a 10.1-inch touchscreen, running Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows Home 7. However, the screen itself can be flipped over, so when the laptop is closed it becomes a chunky tablet running Dell's own tablet platform.

Priced as low as $549 for the base model, this could be a serious contender if shoppers learn to live with its shortcomings.

  • It weighs twice as much as a tablet.
  • It doesn't fire up as quickly as a tablet.
  • As a netbook at heart, its battery life is also a far cry from standalone tablets.

On the other hand, going with a hard drive over flash memory gives it substantially more storage capacity than even the priciest Apple iPad. The Inspiron Duo also has a slightly larger screen than the iPad, potent ammo after Steve Jobs ridiculed the smaller screen sizes of the Streak, Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE: HPQ  ) Zeen, and Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) PlayBook.

The chunky form factor isn't going to help, but isn't this what folks straddling the fence in deciding to buy a laptop or a tablet need? This may not be the best of both worlds, but it's definitely a taste of both worlds.

After years of being unfashionably late or out of touch, Dell may finally have a game changer on its hands.

Let's see whether it can flip this opportunity into success the way users will be able to flip the Inspiron Duo itself.

What do you think of the Inspiron Duo? Share your thoughts in the comments box below. And if you want to follow our Foolish coverage on Dell, add it to My Watchlist

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has a Dell laptop and desktop, but other family members use them more than he does -- he pecked this article out on an HP desktop. Rick owns no shares in any of the companies in this story and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (21) | Recommend This Article (16)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2010, at 9:23 AM, TMFMitten wrote:

    Hi, Rick. Just wanted to say I have a Streak, and for the most part I'm happy with it. For me it hits the sweet spot between a phone and a tablet. It's not so big that I feel silly holding it up to my ear, and it's not so small that I have to squint to read apps and Web pages. I'm not really loyal to brands in general, but if Dell continues to think outside the box like this, they could win me over. I like this idea of a laptop/tablet hybrid, and I could easily see this replacing my current laptop when it gives up the ghost.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2010, at 9:51 AM, Ddorrity wrote:

    Any machine running Microsoft Windows and has hinges is not in the same ecosystem as an iPad.

    What makes an iPad a game changing device are the following:

    1. Instant On - You can decide to use it in an instant and it is available for use. Use it late at night or in an elevator, you never have to wait for it.

    2. Battery Life - An iPad's battery lasts up to 10 hours. I've tried it. It really does. No more shutting down during a 3 hour flight.

    3. Optimized Touch Experience - The hardware, OS, and all the apps have been streamlined for a multi-touch experience. Windows 7 is an awesome desktop OS, but it fails miserably in this dept.

    4. App &Content Distribution - Built in App Store, Acess to Music, Movies, and Books in a much more streamlined fashion. It's easy to find what you are looking for. And with apps to YouTube and Netflix, you have most of your bases covered here.

    This new Dell device won't make a dent in iPad sales because it won't target the use cases an iPad is good for. It's just an ultra portable laptop with a touch screen and crappy battery life.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2010, at 10:13 AM, MurphyMacdotCom wrote:

    Reading the description here I'm picturing the same wintel tablets that didn't catch on over the last several years. What's different about this?

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2010, at 10:14 AM, kingman48 wrote:

    Um your kidding right. Every short coming you listed is the reason we buy the Ipad.. Oh and the fact it's MAc and they dont have virus and spyware problems that MSFT windows does. It works better , its that simple.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2010, at 10:19 AM, TMFMitten wrote:

    Actually, my wife's Macbook was recently loaded with Trojans and spyware, plus a lovely virus that redirected her Google searches. I'm not sure where the "no viruses on Apple" notion comes from. Plus, my crummy old $300 Toshiba laptop can do just as much as her $1,200 Macbook, if not more ... but I guess brand loyalty goes a long way.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2010, at 10:37 AM, Ddorrity wrote:

    People that don't own an iPad and therefore have not tasted it's fruits shouldn't talk about what they know nothing about. The Playbook is ridiculous. Do you know how much it costs, is it made of plastic, do you know how long it's battery life is?

    It's a package deal, and RIMM has no experience here. Apple invented this category of device by being the first tablet maker to sell millions of devices per month. The Playbook won't even compare favorably against the iPad v1, and v2 is likely to be released before the Playbook.

    Sorry RIMM you'll have to do better than flash support. If the battery won't last 10 hours, it beaks the first time you drop it, you can't find any apps for it, it's smaller and costs more, why in the world would RIMM wars the money marketing it. Oh yeah...desperation.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2010, at 10:45 AM, vulcan747 wrote:

    Real Miller Man - Let us know how that Playbook works out for you after eating the crap out of an iPad.

    Oh, and remember to use HAND SANITIZER!

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2010, at 2:50 PM, Rouleur wrote:

    This makes me laugh. iPad killer? Are you joking? the apps for the ipad that exist and that continue to be developed are just tapping in to it's capability. Di find it funny that Rick is comparing Dell to apple at all. The only basis is or ice. Apple is one of the top innovators of our generation while Dell has a record of going the opposite direction.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2010, at 4:09 PM, Oldfool103 wrote:

    iPad Killer??? Don't think so. It is possible in two or three years that Windows RIMM and Android OS will overrun the sales of the iPad; but that is not going to happen in the near future. I still have my old iPod and use it everyday. Someone will have their Playbook and someone their Streak and I'll still have my iPad. Ain't nothing killing it.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2010, at 7:25 PM, gslusher wrote:

    @RealMillerMan:

    Functional deficiencies? You mean like a display that can show most digital photos at only 800x600 vs 1024x768 and isn't very good at viewing web pages in portrait mode? (Note that ALL photos of the Playbook show it in landscape mode.) That in landscape mode shows 22% less of a web page or text? A "keyboard" that's too big to do thumb typing in portrait mode and too small to type with two hands in landscape mode? Text that's about 3/4 as large? (IOW, 12 pt text on the PlayBook will be the same size as 9 pt text on the iPad. If you want the same readability, you'll have to push up the font size and thus reduce the number of characters per line and may make you scroll right and left to see an entire web page.) Unknown battery life vs 10 hrs? (The fact that RIM has said little or nothing about battery life makes me suspect that it's less than the iPad's; otherwise, they'd be touting battery LIFE, rather than battery SIZE.) You mean like requiring a Blackberry to use wireless, so owners of Android, iOS and Symbian phones are SOL?

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2010, at 9:40 PM, iamtellingu wrote:

    Don't you know that Wintel tablets has been in the market for several years already? Why is it this time it'll be a success? Because it flips? Give me a break!!! For those who like Streak and Playbook, if you think those products are so good, why the heck Dell & RIMM did not bring the products to the market until Apple introduced a real tablet? Why? Why? Why? Everybody's just jealous of Apple! Sour-grape losers!

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2010, at 6:13 AM, infektu wrote:

    well, if this video is anything to go by, I'd say the PlayBook really looks razor sharp; somewhat expected from a company which used us with "pro" products that are unparalleled in reliability and security;

    http://us.rd.yahoo.com/finance/external/video/ts/SIG=12p561d...

    will this "kill" the iPad? what a joke, they're not even addressing the same market; ok, a little overlap exists, but the world never ended up with one OS for the PC's, simply because it would be silly not to optimize when we can.

    "who will kill who" is such an unproductive question... I always wondered why do people take technology so personally...

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2010, at 8:26 AM, rlcato wrote:

    Why did you have to say 'killer' in your title? Stick with finance please. And for everyone else (RealMillerMan), don't talk about RIMM's Playbook; it's nothing but vapourware until it's seen in the wild being tested or it's on the market ready for purchase. iPad 2G is coming early next year OK?

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2010, at 9:08 AM, JohnatDuke wrote:

    For those of you who don't know - RealMillerMan posts the exact same thing on any site that talks about the iPad. Every story where his moniker appears is the same cut and paste garbage.

    He's just a troll trying to stir up trouble - and apparently is very good at it.

    As for the author - the "iDevice Killer" lead in is really getting old. It gets you hits - but then you need to back it up. Listing all the deficiencies of this new device which might start shipping next month is not the way to go. Lets see an actual device that anyone can play with - let's see it perform before we start calling it an iPad killer.

    Also keep in mind that any other device released in the next month will have to compete with iPad 2 in a very short time. So it would have to blow away the iPad AND an updated version of iPad all in the same quarter. Good luck with that.

    Currently there are only 2 real competitors that exist in the wild - the Streak and the Galaxy tab. No "killers" to be found anywhere.

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2010, at 10:28 AM, tharbold wrote:

    While one can debate the merits of the iPad display, interface,etc vs the Galaxy Tab, the Streak, etc. .... In the end I believe it's all going to be about the content and the data plans! ....

    I have experience on several sides of this debate. I've had an iPad for about a year now. I am pretty well tied into the Andriod world as my last few phones have been Android devices and I've got experience using them as is and rooting the devices to unleash a little more of their capabilities. (I've been looking hard at the Galaxy Tab). I've also used Windows 7 Home since about a month after 7 was launched.

    I believe in a very short time the device side of these equations will be somewhat of a commodity. Are the Galaxy and/or the Streak better than the iPad? That depends on what your needs and preferences are, and there will never be a definitive answer that everyone agrees to - think of it as the next generation of the Mac vs PC discussion.

    Once the devices reach commodity status, your real differentiators will be access to content and reasonable data plan pricing to support this.

    As an example, I'll put the Galaxy Tab out there. While I'd love to have a Galaxy Tab, the major sticking point for me is that fact that Verizon wants an arm and a leg (full device cost up front, no contract data plan at $20/month for 1GB plus $20/GB if you go over, plus additional costs if you want to be able to send and receive text messages), TMobile/Sprint will discount the devices, but only in exchange for 2yr commitments - though their monthly pricing is slightly better than Verizon's neither one compares to the AT&T plans for the iPad.

    The long and short of it is that you don't typically load content on these devices for later consumption, you do typically use the devices for mobility and you go get the content when you need it in an on demand model.

    IMHO, what will make or break iPad competitors in the near term will be the support the devices do (or don't) get from mobile carriers. If you want to see an iPad killer, look for the device that gets you unlimited data, text, etc for less than $30/mo with no overage fees and no annual contract.

    Just my $0.02, your mileage may vary.

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2010, at 12:19 PM, sk8ertor wrote:

    The iPad is an old crippled device. Terrible screen resolution, locked down that it can't do much, no USB/HDMI outputs to do anything, forced to do whatever Apple tells you to do, can't even install software from the web - must do it through their store so there's absolutely no privacy. Thanks but no thanks. I will be buying anything but an Apple product. I learned my lesson long ago. And the person above said it right. The Mac book is just an overpriced PC which CAN get viruses. I know a few people who bought a Mac and they say they won't be buying a Mac again. One just installed Windows on his Mac. How sad.

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2010, at 4:14 PM, daveefreedom wrote:

    "Chunky" says it all. Who want's that. I love my iPad!

  • Report this Comment On November 23, 2010, at 1:46 PM, TMFMitten wrote:

    @iamtellingu: Why in the world would I be jealous of a device that does half of what my little Dell Streak does yet costs more? If you're happy with your Apple products, more power to you. They just don't cut it for me.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2010, at 3:43 PM, mkj1928 wrote:

    I wasn't a fan of Apple products until I bought an ipad. I'm blown away by it.

    Companies that are first in the marketplace tend to hold it well against the competition. I'm betting Apple will always be one step ahead. That's not to say others don't make good products....it's just that Apple makes GREAT products. It's the difference that makes the difference.

    Mike

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2010, at 8:04 PM, 123spot wrote:

    tharbold, appreciate the logical, civil, unbiased and helpful comment above. You nailed it.

  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2010, at 4:38 AM, redhead77 wrote:

    Seems like the best way to get content for an iPad, Galaxy Tab, etc is to ditch the cell connection and go with a Clear 4G (or similar, when they come out) wi-fi hub. No data limit, better speed. If you add this on top of a home modem, the incremental cost is less than $30/month.

    Sounds like the sweet spot that Tharbold mentioned in his good comment above.

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