Is Dell Getting Back in the Tablet Game Next Month?

Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) is a little-mentioned also-ran in tablets. Its 5-inch Android-based Streak is considered a failure, although it's not clear if the recently launched 7-inch version has been more successful than its smaller cousin. In an ominous sign, the price of the 7-inch Streak was quickly dropped to $399. A recent study Dell released on the market seemed like an attempt to dismiss the tablet trend.

Down but not out
But Dell hasn't given up. Word is it will release a 10-inch Streak in June. Arguably it will compete with Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPad. But the real competition in tablets is to be a close runner-up to the iPad. Dell can approach that in two ways: low prices or offer something differentiated others will pay for.

Steve Jobs has already stated Apple is pricing the iPad aggressively. Because the iPad is unique and popular, competing on differentiation will require targeting a different type of buyer. For Dell, that means going after its core enterprise customer. 

Sizing up the competition
Dell's 10-inch Streak will compete head-on with other Android tablets, including Motorola Mobility's (NYSE: MMI  ) Xoom, Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) S1 and S2. Samsung's Galaxy came out in 7-inch versions late last year (a 10.1-inch version has been announced but not released). Sony's S1 and S2 are due out this fall -- and perhaps earlier in the US.

Looking to non-Android tablets, Dell will be competing with Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE: HPQ  ) webOS-based TouchPad, which has received positive reviews and is due out this summer. Research in Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) PlayBook has a 7-inch screen, so it competes more directly with Dell's 7-inch Streak.

A PC Magazine report suggests Dell will try to compete with a feature-rich offering (see table). If PC Magazine has it right, Dell won't repeat Motorola's mistake of offering only a premium product. (The Xoom, available only with 32GB of storage, has been criticized for its high price points and is said to be off to a weak start.) PC Magazine offered no word on pricing of the 10-inch Streak.

Features

Dell Streak Pro

Motorola Xoom

Apple iPad 2

Display

1280-by-800 pixels, roughly 

10" touchscreen

1280-by-800 pixels

10.1" touchscreen

1024-by-768 pixels 

9.7" Multi-touch screen with fingerprint-resistant coating

Connectivity

4G LTE

WiFi

Bluetooth

3G, 4G LTE upgradeable

WiFi

Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR + HID

3G

WiFi

Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR

Carriers AT&T Verizon; Sprint on the way AT&T and Verizon
Storage 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB 32GB 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB
Weight 1.59 pounds 1.56 to 1.61 pounds 1.33 to 1.35 pounds
Chip 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA  ) Tegra 2 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 SoC
Cameras

5 MP rear camera

2 MP front-facing camera

5 MP rear-facing camera with dual LED flash

2 MP front-facing camera

Digital zoom

720p video capture

Rear camera (720p video, still MP N/A)

Front-facing camera (VGA video, VGA-quality still, MP N/A)

5x digital zoom

Other

A pair of microphones

Docking station with built-in keyboard

SDHC memory slot

1GB of on-board memory

Dell's "Stage 1.5" user interface and enterprise application stack

Built-in microphone

A "wide range" of docking options

Can output HD video

SD card support after software update

1GB DDR2 RAM

Micro USB HDMI out connector

Built-in microphone

Dock connector to USB cable and 30-pin dock connector port

Built-in speaker

Micro-SIM card tray (3G model)

Sources: PC Magazine reports and company specification sheets.

One major drawback for Dell: According to PC Magazine, indications so far are that the 10-inch Streak will only have network access via much-maligned AT&T rather than the more popular Verizon. That could cross the Streak off more than a few buyers' lists, particularly in New York and San Francisco.

Foolish takeaway
Among Android-based tablets, Dell will have a tough time competing with Sony on industrial design. Sony's S1 and S2 have received enthusiastic reviews. Competing with Motorola and Samsung should be a matter of getting the feature set and pricing right. But Dell's struggles to get features and pricing right on the Adamo, its MacBook Air competitor, raise questions about its ability to do any better in tablets.

Among tablets with proprietary operating systems, RIM's PlayBook seems to have stumbled badly out of the starting gate. Enough said. HP's TouchPad has the potential to be a tough competitor to Dell's Streak. It has been well received by reviewers and HP is positioning it as a crossover product that meets the needs of both enterprises and consumers. While that may seem like a confused strategy that's destined to fail, HP's pitch is that people want one tablet they can use for work and for play. Both HP and Dell have the advantage of huge enterprise customer bases that may value one-stop shopping. HP has a huge consumer base to tap as well.

If Android tablets repeat the success of Android phones, a 10-inch Android tablet should emerge as a winner. Which companies do you think will take meaningful tablet market share? An easy way to stay on top of market developments is The Motley Fool's free new My Watchlist feature. You can get up-to-date news and analysis by adding these stocks to your Watchlist now:

Fool contributor Cindy Johnson does not own shares of any stock mentioned in this story. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and NVIDIA. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing puts in NVIDIA. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 23, 2011, at 8:09 PM, marv08 wrote:

    Hm, this article mentions many "enthusiastic reviews" of products (HP and Sony) that do not even exist yet. Nobody has "reviewed" them, but some felt the urge to write pseudo reviews based on spec sheets and press releases. Weak sauce.

    Now, how will a Dell product we do not know fare against other products we do not know? I have no idea, but based on past experience, Dell has no clue when it comes to consumer products and design, and despite having the weakest products, they can't even compete with HP or Apple when it comes to pricing.

    Which company will have meaningful market share in tablets? We will not see that in 2011. Apple is too far ahead already, and they will announce/preview iOS 5 in less than two weeks from now. So far there is zero proof that there is a "tablet market" at all - it still is an iPad market. If consumers are clever, the only decent quality competitor right now is Asus' tablet. It has a high quality IPS display, decent design and would certainly be a true competitor, if they would have an ecosystem. They have nothing remotely close.

    My bet is that the first device to get relevant market share (not beating the iPad, but making a strong impact) will be whatever Amazon will release later this year. They have content, they have happy users, and they are willing to take a true risk. This guarantees them the number 2 spot, no matter what Sony, Motorola, LG, Dell, Samsung, RIM, HP and the other copycats might be pulling...

  • Report this Comment On May 23, 2011, at 8:51 PM, ckchan1234 wrote:

    Dell has a huge and royal enterprise base that it should have a fighting chance unless it screws up again.

    I don't understand why all the presses and critics are so negative on the Dell Streak 5. I have one and I like it a lot.

  • Report this Comment On May 23, 2011, at 9:12 PM, etgh wrote:

    Looks to me the Dell will be a "me to" product so Dell can be seen as a relevant tech player. I still remember their organizer and their "smart" phone, all faded into the sunset because the products never had a market positioning strategy.

    I think Apple will continue to grab a large chunk of the consumer and small piece of the enterprise. I think RIM will be the mirror image, grabbing a big chunk of the corporate market and a smaller consumer piece.

    I think all the rest will fall into the "other" category and/or end up being bundled in with other product offers.

  • Report this Comment On May 23, 2011, at 9:27 PM, techy46 wrote:

    Rumors are that Dell. HTC and Samsung are demo'ing 6-9 new smartphones at tomorrows WP 7.5 Mango show in addition to Windows 8 tablets. It's going to get really interesting in 9-12 months.

  • Report this Comment On May 24, 2011, at 8:58 PM, srmorb wrote:

    The pathway Dell appears to be on brings to mind

    a line from a spiritual , He falls down but He got up

    foe a saint is but a sinner who falls down and then got up.

    Look at it this way.

    Dell has a Special-Ops mentality. It's going down to hell (the market) to regroup.

    When Dell's regrouping is complete it will become

    the saint that gets up.

    This will be the time to buy.

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