For Dell's Streak, price and design could be crucial, analysts say

One analyst says the 5-in. tablet/smartphone will be a showcase for Dell, which is best known for selling PCs

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Several analysts said many buyers will forgive the delays and shipment confusion, but the price, form factor (between a smartphone and tablet) and the Android version gave them some cause for concern.

"I think it would be better if it was priced at $199," the price of many smartphones, said Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates. "It seems they are pricing this halfway between a smartphone and full-blown tablet. But I suspect they experimenting to see what the market will bear."

Analyst Rob Enderle at Enderle Group said the $300 price tag is midway between a $200 smartphone and some tablets, although he said the highest-capacity iPad could cost as much as $800.

Gold said it is "troubling" that the Streak ships with Android 1.6, but Enderle said it will probably be upgradable by November and that Google has not been making v2.2 upgrades available as quickly for Android-based tablets as it has for smartphones.

Enderle, who has been using a Streak prototype for months to test out the device, said he found it "close to an ideal blend" of a tablet and a smartphone. Meanwhile, Gold said he's interested in seeing how popular it becomes as a "tweener" device.

"I think this device is, in some ways, a make-or-break for Dell," Gold added. "They need to establish themselves in the smart device market, which they have yet to do in any real way."

Enderle said that smartphone is actually a new category for Dell and because of that, customers will be somewhat patient.

"The Streak is not in a make-it-or-break-it class, and for Dell this is their first attempt to break into this segment," Enderle said. "I doubt [the Streak] will be successful, just because Dell is not Apple and so many devices are out there. But as a showcase of what Dell is capable of, it's good."

In the end, the confusion buyers faced over the shipment date won't matter, Enderle added. "If they shipped in fourth quarter, that would be a problem," he added.

Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner, added: "The question everybody in the store will ask is, 'Why should I buy this Streak instead of the iPad?' "

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at  @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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