Jun 10

Dell exposes itself in public

In case anyone missed the news, Dell is entering the tablet market — sort of — with a mini-5-inch touchscreen device called the Streak.

The name is actually perfect. Just as “streakers” used to run through public places stark naked, the Streak does a darn good job of exposing the real Dell: a company that wishes it could innovate, but lacks a few essential ingredients.

Let’s back up a bit to fully appreciate this one. We’ve got phones and we’ve got laptops. Apple just shook things up by putting a brand new product — iPad — in that space between a phone and laptop.

Now Dell comes along and puts the Streak in some imagined space between a phone and an iPad. Might they next put a product between a phone and the Streak? With a little luck, this could go on forever.

The Streak is too big to be a good phone and too small to be a good tablet. It is truly the Dell version of innovation — a faint echo of someone else’s good idea.

Dell’s problem is that they’re not an innovator, they’re a money-making machine. And unfortunately, they’re a money-making machine that doesn’t make any money. The revolution they created — the direct sales model — has long since been bettered by others. With an almost invisible profit margin, they can only make money when they sell products by the zillion. And that’s not so easy these days.

“If only we could be seen as an innovator,” Dell thinks, “then people would be willing to pay more for our products.” Bingo. That’s Apple’s not-so-secret secret. But wishing you could be an innovator doesn’t make you one. Dell has been wishing for a few years now, and all we get are wild colors for our laptops, me-too smart phones and a super-thin computer that costs too much and impresses too little.

What Dell really needs is a product that will stand out from their current product line. By all appearances, the Streak is going to fit right in.

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  • Hilarious. And so true. You and Daniel Eran Dilger are the only 2 tech bloggers who make sense these days.

  • Hobbes

    Having actually played with the Streak (terrible name by all accounts) I have to say it’s actually not that bad. It has the feel of what Palm would’ve created; not exactly what the market wants but a few will find it ‘suits them’.

    It’s big and bulky (like most Palm products, Palm Pilot, Palm Treo).

    It’s the poor man’s iPad. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; as not everyone can or wants to pay $500+ for –what until iPad 2.0 arrives– is an over-sized iPod.

  • ken segall

    “Not that bad” is probably about as good as Dell gets, but I don’t think that’s going to get them where they need to go.

    And I apologize in advance, but you hit my iPad nerve with the “oversized iPod” reference. My feelings on this topic have only gotten stronger after seeing the hot reception iPad has enjoyed. iPad is indeed an oversized iPod — and that is a huge positive. The App Store, multi-touch, and iOS defined the iPhone (and iPod touch) revolution. The only thing holding it back was a small screen and weak processor. iPad removed both of those limitations, and now the sky is the limit. Because it employs the same technology, iPad will always be an oversized iPod, even as it evolves—which is why it should keep getting even more popular.

  • neilw

    The Streak may still be an OK device that fills a niche. That’s probably the best it can hope for, unless it somehow taps into some unmet need that I personally don’t think exists.

    One can’t help feeling that the reason Dell chose that form factor was purely because it was “available” (i.e., not positioned directly against Apple or other stronger competitors), not because it was more desirable. Viewed in this light, the Streak is an advertisement of Dell’s own lack of confidence in its ability to compete.

    Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to some competition in the tablet market to keep Apple on its toes.

  • what’s unfair, i think, is to really expect product leadership from Dell, et al, … it’s not their cup of tea as has been demonstrated too many times to count.

    we always get to see teasers about the next big MS thing, or the HP innovation right around the corner, or how Dell is going to release this amazing new thing … it’s just not what they do. Apple has cornered that market by smart (some say brilliant) product innovation and not being afraid to be right about what people want …

    and that leaves the rest of them to try and perform the ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ catch-up maneuver … and always to tepid results like this.

    i think IF they put some real thought into product leadership (and that’s a TALL ask), we might see a much more robust marketplace … til then it’s more lukewarm offerings with ‘meh’ features …