Dell released additional details about its forthcoming Android-powered tablet device, called the Streak, today. And even though there seems to be some excitement around the release of a tablet that could possibly challenge the iPad, it's getting harder and harder to rally behind the Streak.
Why? Quite frankly, it's because the Streak is looking more and more like a product that's going to launch without any sort of fanfare, without the latest and greatest technology and without the a compelling reason to go tablet instead of phone or netbook/notebook.
A blog post on the Direct2Dell blog this week didn't offer many details - and readers who commented on that post seem to be losing patience quickly. One of the biggest beefs being expressed on its blog is news that the Streak will not support T-Mobile as a carrier. Instead, we're looking at pricing of $299 with a two-year AT&T contract or $549 without. AT&T two-year contract = Strike 1
The device, at launch, will be powered by Android version 1.6, not 2.2, aka Froyo. That update will come later this year, the company said, without offering so much as a ballpark date for that update. With that said, there are some Android phones out there that are already offering a newer version of Android than the Streak will upon launch. Old technology = Strike 2
And then there's the lack of excitement around this product. The Streak is going to have a hard enough time on the competitive playing field because - no matter what - it will be compared to the iPad. So what is Dell doing to build momentum around the launch? Not much, it seems. I have yet to see a TV commercial (maybe I'm watching the wrong channels). I have yet to see a billboard or a banner ad - not even on Dell's Web site. Poor marketing and PR = Strike 3
C'mon, Dell. I'm pulling for you on this leap into mobile Android tablet technology, largely because I'd like to see you give Apple a run for its money. But it's not looking good so far. Android technology is more advanced that what you're able to deliver at launch, which tells me that the Streak will be more of a second-rate product.
And what happens when Google partners with another hardware manufacturer that offers something sleeker and nicer and tied to another wireless carrier? Just ask Motorola, whose announcements around the Cliq and the Droid were upstaged by HTC's Droid Incredible and Evo 4G? Motoblur on the Cliq was nice, but HTC Sense has upstaged it, too.
Dell needs to be ahead of the curve here - and it's not. And consumers who were looking forward to the Streak suddenly are turning their backs on Dell. (That T-Mobile thing is pretty big for many of them.) Consider the following comment from a Dell blog reader:
No T-Mobile, no sale. I've been waiting for this since Feb. Dell took far too long to release this and did a poor job of keeping us updated. Here we are, probably on the eve of the pre-order, and I just find out that there will be no T-Mobile 3G, even after FCC clearance. if you planned to sell it unlocked, why on earth would you restrict yourself to AT&T? I was planning on spending $800 with you guys this week with all the accessories....guess I'll spend it on hookers instead. Even worse, while waiting for this, I put off buying the Nexus One.....The Nexus sold out last week.
Another comment drove home the point even further:
I am not a regular poster but this time I feel compelled. Dell has done a poor job with this release. Android 1.6 is not acceptable as well as not allowing the phone to be used with T-Mobile. Where is the incentive to buy one when you are so far behind the others?
Can Dell afford any more missteps in products that step saway from its core? It hasn't had much luck in the past with non-PC products. (Remember Dell's attempt at trying to take on Apple with mp3 players?) If the Streak - with all of its shortcomings - is Dell's best effort in tablet computing, then it seems clear that Apple has nothing to worry about right away.
Android, despite the growth and publicity around its devices, is still a minor leaguer trying to compete with the iPhone. That's not to say that Android won't make it to the major leagues - after all, it's definitely become a bit of a thorn in the side of Apple and, given the rapid development of the OS, it could someday be a real contender.
As much as I hate to say it, the Streak - which already feels like a strikeout - is not be the product that will put Android on the tablet map.