Dell’s Tablet: Netbook Redux?

New details have emerged regarding an upcoming Dell tablet device, which could be one of the first to run Windows 8.

The tablet will reportedly run on a dual-core Intel Cloverleaf processor with 2GB of RAM and 128 GB of SSD storage. It will have a 10.1-inch display, according to information from Neowin.

Dell’s tablet will also reportedly have two options for a removable battery — a smaller version that has 6-8 hours of battery life and a larger version that could get 10-12.

The tablet will also have a TPM security chip and a lock slot to enhance security. Users can also choose to use a fingerprint or smart card reader for added security measures.

Dell will reportedly be one of the first few device makers to launch a tablet that runs Windows 8, Microsoft’s upcoming operating system, which is expected to be better suited for mobile and tablet devices. Dell hasn’t offered any details about the device, but it is expected to launch in late fall of this year.

Dell didn’t respond to our requests for comment on this story.

Standing Out In the Crowd

When Dell’s Windows 8 tablet does make its debut, it’s going to be entering a crowded, competitive marketplace where Apple’s iPad has been reigning nearly uncontested. Many manufacturers, Dell included, are still trying to figure out how to fit well into that space, Tuong Nguyen, an analyst at Gartner, told TechNewsWorld.

“The tablet era we’re in right now is still an emerging business model,” he said. “A lot of vendors are still trying to figure out how they can compete in that space, and the underlying question is if a new tablet will even have a chance against Apple. They’ve established that space, and it’s not going to be an easy task to compete with them in their own space.”

Part of the reason Apple is able to gain such a stronghold there is the ecosystem that it’s created surrounding the iPad, Nguyen said. Apple users want to buy a device that will support its other Apple features, such songs from iTunes or apps they already enjoy on their iPhone. One tablet that was able to make a splash in the space, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, also had an ecosystem of Amazon users and the online retail store with which customers had already established a comfort and familiarity, he added.

Amazon’s ecosystem and established infrastructure meant that the company could offer the device at a relatively low price point. Dell may not have that luxury, and for a tablet with relatively standard specs, a premium price could be a setback for this particular device, said Nguyen.

“I’m very skeptical that this would make a huge splash, especially with the rumored price point,” he said. “We’re moving towards a more reasonable price point in general in the market right now, but if you don’t have the kind of features like the iPad or the Kindle, which lets you do exactly what you want to do with the product, it’s really kind of a dumbed-down laptop or slightly better mobile phone, and a lot of people might not bother wasting on that luxury.”

Crossing Fingers for Windows 8

The operating systems is one aspect in which a Dell tablet would heavily differ from the iPad. Windows has taken criticism before for not running well on tablets, but when Windows 8 launches later this year, certain versions will target mobiles specifically.

Most mainstream consumers likely won’t rush out to buy a Windows 8 device the day it launches, said Ben Bajarin, director and founder of Creative Strategies, but Microsoft and companies such as Dell, HP and Acer, which are making tablets outside the Android or iOS realm, can focus on a different crowd, he said.

“The only things going for Windows 8 tablets is the familiarity of corporate IT for service and support of Windows,” he said. “I am not expecting these Windows 8 tablets to go anywhere with consumers in the short term, but most vendors will focus their efforts on the business environment.”

Even if the operating system is an improvement from before, Nguyen said the company needs to make sure it can live up to expectations if Dell and other companies launching tablets that operate on the system put their bets on Windows 8.

“It really only takes one bad experience to sour people,” he said. “If the tablet isn’t up to some of the standards, it can really only be that one experience that will turn them towards something else.”

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