Dell Unveils a Tablet PC. But Why?

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Dell unveiled a tablet PC, but I’m puzzled as to why they’d do this.

From a specs perspective it fits in nicely with what one would expect based on the 50 or 60 tablet PCs sold so far. A 12” screen, finger and tablet input, swivel screen so you can use a keyboard, relatively small and light, etc. Oh, and expensive, don’t forget expensive. But the whole thing puzzles me.

Consider that Dell is on a slow spiral downward. Is making an expensive niche product the way to go here? I can understand the One (disappointing though it is), but a tablet?

Tablet PCs have a very narrow market. They’re somewhat popular in the medical industry, and a few others, but you don’t see them too many places. In any case, it’s usually a pretty vertical app being used to take advantage of them. Besides, does anyone think Windows Vista is the best tablet OS? I mean, are you kidding me?!

If you want my opinion (and since you’re reading my site you’re gonna get it whether you want it or not) Dell is doing this partially because they’ve heard enough rumors about Apple doing it that they’re trying to beat Apple to the punch. They’re trying to “steal” a rumor, and introduce theirs a month before Apple does at Macworld (if the rumors are true).

I think Dell is nuts, but I also think Apple would be nuts if they introduced a conventional tablet PC. Luckily, I believe Jobs knows the tablet market is too small to go after, even though Apple has a better OS for tablets.

I do believe that at least one new laptop, whether redesigned MacBooks or MacBook Pros, or a new ultra-portable, is pretty likely at Macworld, but not a tablet. At least not a conventional one like Dell has done here.

I think the iPhone and OS X have shown the beginnings of what great things Apple could do with an unconventional tablet PC. By “unconventional”, I mean one that wouldn’t have to be so specialized. Something that wouldn’t require such vertical apps, so regular people could find practical uses for it right out of the box. But I just don’t think Apple is there yet. Get 6-12 months of iPhone SDK development in 2008, and see how many of those apps and ideas will translate well to a larger form factor. Then you have reasons for a tablet that would appeal much more broadly.

Until then, Apple’s not sitting idle because they’ll be making continual improvements to Multi-Touch for the iPhone. In essence, Apple’s “tablet OS” was introduced first on a smaller device, where it was immediately usable, while it continues to mature for utilization in a larger device when the time, and practical applications, make sense.

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