Dell: Streak Isn't Going After iPad's Market

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By Gabriel Perna | June 4, 2010 1:38 PM EST

Dell says the Streak isn't supposed to replace either tablets or PCs, according to CEO Michael Dell, in remarks at a gathering of investors and analysts in New York.

Speaking at the Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference, he said tablets and smartphones are complimentary devices when it comes to traditional PCs and laptops, not replacements. "These devices feel accretive to us," said Dell. "You can't activate those devices unless you have a PC. There's always some cannibalization (of PCs and laptops), but it feels like market expansion."

But some analysts say that Dell still faces an uphill battle to get the Streak in as many hands as the iPad.

Sarah Rotman Epps, technology analyst at Forrester, said Apple has a leg up because it has its own stores and a lot of experience marketing to consumers. "Dell historically has sold computers to enterprises and doesn't have a strong presence in retail stores," she said. "Apple is much more prepared than Dell to tell consumers they want a new product through marketing and their retail store."

Beyond marketing, there's technical issues, says Ken Dulaney, vice president at Gartner. One problem is the screen's size five inches. That's a bit small for watching video, though bigger than most smartphones. "What are people going to do with the Streak?" he said. "Intel in the past has pushed this mobile Internet device design. They tried out 30 designs, all of which failed because of the screen size." For many users, the screens were too small to browse the Web easily.

Charles King, Principal Analyst at Pund-IT, disagrees with Dulaney, that the Streak's screen size is a problem. The small screen means the Streak will not threaten the sales of Dell's laptops or PC lines. The iPad, by contrast, has already begun to hurt the MacBook's sales, he says.

King says the Streak's size and standalone features show that Dell is aiming at a different group of users than Apple is with the iPad. "The iPad is clearly better for content consumption than content creation. Dell, with the Streak, is trying to nod at that by making it better for content creation with more robust communication features. I don't think Dell intends to replace their laptops. I think the Streak will sit firmly between smartphones and laptops."

Dulaney says Dell's strategy of using third party components may not be an effective move against the iPad. One of the reasons for Apple's success is its in-house software, which is familiar to consumers and works well. Dell, by contrast, uses Google's Android operating system for the Streak. "While getting Android is a good start, it isn't enough. Dell has to add its own components," said Dulaney. "Dell has to take a role here and brand itself more."

All three analysts noted the Streak offers a number of things the iPad doesn't. It has two cameras, one in the front and another in the back. It is compatible with Adobe Flash and has a built-in phone.

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