Dell is developing a tablet with a 10-inch screen that will be released next year as it tries to expand its presence in the handheld market, the company said Thursday. "You'll see for sure a 10-inch [tablet] from us next year," said Steve Felice, president of the Global Consumer, Small and Medium Business division, in an interview that also included Ed Boyd, who is vice president of the Experience Design Group at Dell.
The company has already released the Streak, which has a 5-inch screen and smartphone features to make calls. The positive response to Streak, which Dell describes as a tablet, has led the company to pour more resources into developing tablets and smartphones.
Dell in the past has also talked about a tablet with a 7-inch screen, and "it's possible" that device will be released in the future, Felice said. Dell is testing a number of tablets to see which size and weight ratios resonate with users. "You're going to see a pretty fast development cycle from Dell and you'll see more products next year," Felice said.
The Dell executives declined to provide specific release dates, but said tablets will be offered with both Windows and Linux OSes, depending on what users want. Boyd expressed doubt on Windows 7 being the right OS for tablets, saying users would still need a keyboard and mouse to make best use of the OS.
For now, Google's Android OS plays better with tablets, but the successor to Windows 7 will have a much improved touch interface and will be well-suited for tablets, Boyd said. "There is a tremendous amount of pent-up demand for a Windows [tablet] so you can run productivity applications. Unfortunately, it won't happen until the Windows 8 time frame," Boyd said.
Microsoft hasn't officially announced a successor to Windows 7, though leaked slides rumoured to be from Microsoft suggest a beta of the follow-up OS being released around the middle of next year. For now, Dell is trying to bring Windows 7 to tablets through the Inspiron Duo, a netbook/tablet hybrid first demonstrated in September and that Dell expects to release in the next couple of months.
Dell's plans to release new products comes at a time when tablets, led by Apple's iPad, are increasingly eating into netbook and laptop sales. Analyst firms IDC and Gartner last week said that the impact of tablets was severe on netbooks, whose proportion of overall mobile computer shipments dropped during the third quarter this year. Competitors including Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Samsung and Toshiba have either announced or will announce tablets.
Dell until now has paid little attention to netbooks, saying they are under-powered and too small for mainstream computing. That gambit has paid off, Felice said, adding that the company has high hopes for tablets for as "content consumption" devices, while laptops will continue to be used for productivity tools and data-intensive applications.
"Our competition was confusing customers. They were portraying netbooks as a notebook replacement," Felice said.
Dell also has plans to release new smartphones. The company last week introduced the Dell Venue Pro smartphone with the Windows Phone 7 OS, and on Thursday showed off a version of the handset running Android 2.2. The smartphone includes a 4.1-inch screen, a QWERTY keyboard, and like the Streak, comes with a customized Dell user interface.
Dell is a late entrant into the smartphone market, which is dominated by companies like Nokia, Apple, Samsung, Research In Motion and LG Electronics. But the volume shipments of smartphones are growing, and the company hopes to grab a small chunk of the market.
"Do we want to [have] the number-one share in handsets? No. But we want to have a relevant line of smartphone products that show consistency with tablets and computers," Felice said.
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