Will Dell be the one to take Android mainstream?

Android is gaining market share fast, but still has a long ways to go. Can Dell's new tablet and smartphone products drive adoption?

Android has already hit its stride in the mobile phone market, accounting for around 9% of the smartphone market in February. It's not exactly crushing RIM or Apple yet in the market, but it is clearly growing quickly. However, as TechCrunch reported when they covered the surge in market share for Android,

It’s important to note that while Android is clearly growing quickly, it still has a long ways to go to match Apple’s mobile user base. Apple’s iPhone OS is also used by the iPod Touch (and now, the iPad); Android still hasn’t been deployed on any popular devices that aren’t phones.

However, it looks as though that's about to change, and it just might be Dell that makes it happen sooner than later. In addition to the Thunder Android-based smartphone leaked by Engadget earlier this week, a 7.1" Android-powered tablet called Looking Glass was also featured on the site.

Although Looking Glass (or its 5" little brother, the Streak) won't be available until much later this year, it's the first Android tablet we've heard about (even unofficially) from a major OEM. Of course it's being dubbed an iPad killer, but, although the specs look competitive, we're still months from seeing either device in the wild. Will the Streak be large enough to be relevant in this space? Will the Looking Glass play second fiddle to the iPad? Will people decide they don't even really need a tablet and stop buying them as iPad hysteria wanes?

I don't think the latter will be the case; tablets are a very natural form factor and there are many functions for which a smartphone is simply too small. In fact, as iPad users tease out use cases for the new class of device, it seems pretty likely that there will be significant pent up demand for alternatives, both Windows-based (like the HP Slate) and Android-based. If Dell brings the first mainstream Android non-phone device to market, they may do for Android tablets what they did for laptops several years ago. I certainly don't think I'll be able to resist the call of the Looking Glass.

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