But is the Steak’s demise a reflection on Dell, on the Android OS it ran, or of tablets themselves? Depressingly, it could be a bit of all three.
The first problem with the Streak was the decision in the recent model to go for a 7-inch screen size, which put it in a no-man’s land between smartphones and rival tablets. The Dell name on its own was never going to overcome this handicap, especially when it was no cheaper or better made than its rivals with larger screens.
Conclusion: Dell isn’t a premium builder in the HTC or Apple mould no matter what it might think of itself. Will it do any better making Windows tablets?
Then there’s Android itself, which is still overwhelmingly a smartphone rather than a tablet OS. It should succeed in the long run but so far (and for a variety of reasons including a lack of native apps) hasn’t quite taken off. It’s not that Android isn’t capable of carving out a market on tablets once the apps appear but it is still heavily dependent on the attractions of the devices themselves.
Conclusion: Android is not enough of a selling point to succeed on tablets unless compelling apps appear soon or Android 4.0 becomes mainstream.
Perhaps the biggest failing is simply the consumer suspicion that the market is full of bleeding edge tablets running Android that will look pretty silly in a year’s time. This might understate a deeper problem with the whole sector - do people really see enough value in tablets as mainstream computing products?
Conclusion: people are happy to see value in tablets if they are fully realised, i.e. made by Apple which has a track record of iconic products. Everyone else will have to work harder and so far (with the exception of intriguing Asus Eee Pad Transformer hybrid) their efforts have lacked enough presence.
My own conviction is that without premium build quality, not enough people see tablets as worth the current price, which tends to dent the hype that has surrounded these devices since Apple came up with the first iPad and everyone rushed to imitate them.
Mass-market tablets will just need to become more like netbooks than laptops and Smartphones in terms of price but that could make them less compelling to manufacture.
Somebody needs to take the plunge soon but we now know it won’t be Dell.