Dell to bring 10-inch tablet to China first, U.S. on hold

Dell will first launch its Streak 10 Pro tablet in China, putting other markets like the U.S. and Europe on hold in order to give developers more time to create the necessary apps.

It will launch the Android tablet in China "later this summer," according to a blog post written by Amit Midha, the company's president of China and South Asia. In the second half of 2011, Dell will also evaluate what other regions it wants to sell the product.

The PC manufacturer decided to sell the Streak 10 Pro tablet in China first because of the country's vast market, where many people are going online for the first time, Midha wrote. "In addition, we have a significant -- and rapidly growing -- retail presence in China, with more than 10,000 locations where customers can buy Dell products throughout the region," he said.

But China will also serve as a testing ground for the product, as Dell prepares to launch tablets in the U.S. and European markets at a later date. Apps are an important part of the services offered on tablets. But in the case of China, access to those apps could prove to be more difficult since Google's Android Market is not available in the country.

"We will use what we learn in China to shape mobile products we'll offer in other places down the road," Midha said. Also, in an effort to provide a complete experience to its customers, Dell wants to give more time for developers in other markets to create "robust apps" for professionals, he added.

This is not the first time Dell has launched a product in developing markets first. In 2009, it announced it would sell its first-ever smartphone in Brazil and China.

China could be a better market for Dell to sell its tablets, considering Apple already dominates so many other markets with its iPad device, said Sun Peilin, an analyst with Beijing-based research firm Analysys International. While Apple has a 78% share of China's tablet market, there is still plenty of room for rivals to come and establish their own presence, Sun said.

Tablet sales in China, while growing, still only make up a small slice of the worldwide market. Tablet sales in the country are expected to reach 4.5 million units this year, an increase from 600,000, according to estimates from Analysys.

Worldwide tablet sales are projected to hit 69.7 million units, nearly four times the 16.7 million sold in 2010, according to research firm Gartner.

China's tablet market, however, is already being eyed by other competitors. Earlier this year Lenovo and Motorola launched their own Android tablets in China. In an earnings webcast last month Lenovo said it wants to grab a 20% share of China's tablet market.

China is also a major market for inexpensive, unbranded tablets. Some such tablets sell for $75 to $300.

"There are a lot of local media tablet vendors in China, generally using low-end Android white boxes," said IDC Associate Vice President Bryan Ma. "It's possible that Dell thinks that it can be positioned as a better product with a better brand against those."

In the first quarter, 41% of the 850,00 tablets sold in China ran Android, according to IDC. Android ran on 25% of the 2.3 million tablets sold in the U.S. during the same period.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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