Dell will be launching its 10-inch Dell Streak 10 Pro in China this summer and says that the U.S. launch may be postponed until next year. In an interview with CNET, the company is blaming the delay of a U.S. launch due to an immature tablet market, but could the company be evaluating the wrong reasons when it comes to its success, or lack thereof, in its smartphone and tablet portfolio as it concerns the U.S. market?
The company had unveiled a number of products for the U.S. market, including a 5-inch Android Dell Streak that’s available both on AT&T and as an unlocked handset, a T-Mobile-branded Dell Streak 7, and a Dell Venue Pro for both T-Mobile and AT&T. However, those launches are not without problem, and consumers who are expecting Dell’s mobile ventures to be flawless may have had their hopes slashed in the past by Dell, whose mobile legacy has been plagued with delays, outdated operating systems, and slow migration to the latest software versions for Android.
Let’s take a look at the Dell Streak 5-inch first. That handset debuted with Android 1.6 at a time when Android 2.2 was already beginning to be available on consumer handsets released by rivals, and not just the flagship Google Nexus smartphones–at the time, it was the HTC-made Nexus One for Google as the Nexus S had not launched. The device was promised an upgrade path to Android 2.2, but it wasn’t until around the Christmas time frame when 2.2 began coming out of Dell for the Streak, a point when Android 2.3 and Android 3.0 were beginning to gain buzz as consumers waited in anticipation for those announcements from Google. Essentially, due to Dell’s slow, yet steady progress with the 5-inch hybrid product that straddled the smartphone and tablet spaces, Dell’s late release of the Android 2.2 Froyo update put it even further behind.
Additionally, the Streak never really gained momentum. Though Dell partnered with AT&T to make a carrier-locked and subsidized version of the tablet, it was no where to be found to be touched by consumers. It was only weeks after the announcement that the Streak began to gain placement in Best Buy stores. With a unique 5-inch form factor, consumers probably wanted to know how they would use the phone-tablet hybrid, if it would fit their hands, if it would be awkward to use, and how it may be part of their daily lives. Without a demo unit to hold and behold, consumers shied away.
Then, there was the saga with the Windows Phone 7-powered Dell Venue Pro, a unique device given its form factor and Microsoft’s historic legacy with the enterprise form factor. It had a BlackBerry-style form factor when the portrait-oriented keyboard slider was opened, and was the only Windows Phone 7 device with that form factor. Yet, despite compatibility with T-Mobile’s network at launch, the Venue Pro again was not seen at a T-Mobile store and the competing HTC HD7 garnered much of the limelight. Plagued with bugs and problems, Dell’s Windows Phone 7 launch was best described as problematic, and the company was not able to meet initial demands, and when it finally was able to iron out demands, it seems that the product lost momentum.
Perhaps, with these two examples of botched U.S. launches of its mobile products, Dell should re-examine its strategy when it comes to the consumer market, rather than blame the U.S. market for not well-receiving its solutions. In the CNET interview, a Dell executive was quoted as saying:
“This is not an either-or for us. This is a choice about where is the best place to take our story and avoids a bunch of the inhibitors and barriers to success that we’ve seen in the U.S. market,” John Thode said. “Things like confusion over what exactly Android is bringing to the table [and] an immature platform and roll out of devices that weren’t quite ready yet.”
No one is disputing the importance of the Chinese market, especially where smartphones and tablets are concerned. However, ignoring the U.S. market may not be the wisest strategy for Dell, especially where the 10-inch Dell Streak Pro is concerned.
Hopefully, Dell will learn some lessons from its prior launches and can sort out its retail channel partnerships and can launch timely updates. At least delaying the U.S. launch serves a big purpose here–perhaps Dell can use the Chinese market as guinea pigs and all the bugs, glitches, and flaws will be ironed out ahead of a U.S. debut of the Streak 10.
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