Dell Streak – Niche Tablet or Newton Wannabe?

Remember the Apple Newton?  The term PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) was coined to describe the Newton.  Initially intended to reinvent personal computing, it ultimately was marketed as a platform which would be a complementary to the personal computer.  Aside from its famous, and, sometimes not so accurate, handwriting recognition software, the Newton was just a bit too large to carry around in your pocket (4.5 x 7.25 x 0.75 inches).  It had a short lifespan of five years.  It is, however, considered to have been influential in the development of the Apple iPhone.

Apple has come a long way since the Newton, with mammoth sales of its popular iPhone, which, as we previously wrote, transformed Apple Computer Inc. from a personal computer company into a lifestyle computing company, and the iPad multi-touch tablet computer which has the potential of becoming a replacement for notebook and/or notepad computers.

Apple’s success has driven other, former competitors in the PC marketplace into both the Smart Phone market (witness HP and its acquisition of Palm) and multi-touch tablet market, with products meant for Web surfing, social networking, e-mail, games, productivity, navigation, book reading, and playing music and videos.

Enter the Dell Streak, a product meant to enter both the SmartPhone and Tablet markets.  The Streak is being called a “tweener” device.  Though about half the thickness of the Newton (0.4 inches), the footprint of the Streak is remarkably close to the original Newton, and, as was the Newton, a bit too big to be carried in your pocket. 

The Streak is best handled in landscape form, like a video game device, though with much poorer screen resolution.  The price-point is the same as that or the original Newton (US$499.00), when purchased without a two-year phone contract from AT&T.  The phone feature lowers the price to US$300.00.  The device is awkward to handle for phone calls and somewhat too small to dominate as an e-Book reader.

The Streak has all the appearances of a double “me too” product, with Dell trying to reshape itself, like Apple, as a lifestyle computing company.  Whether or not this will come to fruition is yet to be seen as the Streak has some good features, but none that will transform the industry.  The Streak is more likely to end up with a short lifespan, equal to or less than the Newton, but without the prospect, unlike the Newton, of engendering future paradigm-changing technology.

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