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Dell preps return to tablet market

With rival tablets finding little ground against Apple, PC maker looks to unveil new consumer-oriented tablet late this year, but stays coy on which mobile operating system will power device.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Dell may have pulled the plug on its Streak tablets last year, but PC maker has revealed plans for a comeback with a new consumer-oriented tablet scheduled to be launched late-2012.

Noting the "general failure of everyone that's tried to introduce a tablet outside of Apple", Dell's chief commercial officer Steve Felice said the company has been taking its time. He told Reuters during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas Wednesday: "You will see us enter this market in a bigger way toward the end of the year. So we are not really deemphasizing it, we are really being very careful how we enter it.

"When you are talking about PC, people are more focused on the hardware itself. When you are talking about the tablet or the smartphone, people are interested in the overall environment it's operating in," Felice said. "As we have matured in this, we are spending a lot more time in the overall ecosystem."

The Texas-based company first entered the tablet arena in August 2010 with the Dell Streak 5--powered by Google's Android--which was aimed at enterprise users, rather than consumers. A second tablet, Streak 7, was introduced in January 2011. However, Dell later killed off the Streak 5 in August 2011, and the Streak 7's death knell came in December the same year.

Its upcoming tablet reflects the company's push to target consumers, but Dell will still ensure its tablets are "very compatible with the business marketplace, which we don't think Apple has addressed", said Felice. "There's lot of use in the commercial sector that requires security and more compatibility, and I think we will be able to address that in a better way," he said.

Dell in May reported a drop in its consumer PC revenue by 23 percent in its first fiscal quarter 2012. In comparison, its enterprise business expanded and accounted for 20 percent of its US$15 billion revenue.

In the Reuters report, Felice did not confirm whether the tablet would run on Android or Microsoft's Windows 8, saying that both were viable options. Nonetheless, he said he liked the feel of the touch-enabled Windows 8 operating system and its expected launch later this year will be well-timed in light of other tablet flops such as HP's TouchPad and Research In Motion's (RIM) Playbook.

"There hasn't been a lot of advancement and it's given Microsoft a good window to come into the market with Windows 8. I like the touch Windows 8 feature," Felice said. "We like Windows 8, but we continue to develop with Android as well. We are still going to be more choice-driven based on the feedback we get from customers."

Dell's announcement to re-enter the tablet market comes amid declining global PC sales, as tablet computers continue to chew away at the former's expense.

On Tuesday, the company's CEO Michael Dell told reporters in Bangalore that tablets and smartphones were not a big threat to PCs since people using the Internet on those mobile devices will turn to PCs to get a better Web experience, according to a PC World report.

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