Though HP's tablet was highly featured in Microsoft's recent Windows 7 launch, Dell is also keen to get in on the new tablet PC market, and recently has been pushing its iPad competitor. Which begs the question, can it kick it?
According to Dell's general manager of tablet devices Neeraj Choubey, speaking to Wired, the upcoming Mini 5 tablet (still a tentative name) is a gizmo "optimized for media consumption" which makes it seem pitched at exactly the same market that Apple's targeting. Like the iPad it'll also offer "the full Web-browsing experience"—though we suspect this is a dig at Apple's controversial avoidance of Adobe Flash—and it'll sit in exactly the same middle ground between a laptop and a smartphone, where it will replace "everything" the smartphone does (except fit in your jeans pocket, presumably.) This highlights that the Mini 5 will be able to make calls, a bonus that Apple hasn't once associated with the iPad, even while we confidently suspect it'll be able to make VoIP calls via apps like Skype.
But how else does the tech in the Mini 5 stand up to the iPad? From the dribs and drabs of data that have leaked out about both, here's a comparison.
Dell Mini 5
- OS: Google Android
- Screen size: 5-inches, scaling up to more at a "later" date. Multitouch
- Screen aspect ratio: 16:9, same as HDTV, close to movie-sized
- CPU: Qualcomm snapdragon 1GHz
- Connectivity: Wi-fi, 3G, Bluetooth (assumed)
- Apps: Android compatible, including business productivity, MP3 store from Amazon
- Cameras: Front-facing Webcam, rear-facing 5-megapixel unit
- Price: "Competitive"
- Due: "A couple of months"
- Extras: Cloud-sharing of documents, files
- OS: iPhone derivative
- Screen size: 9.7 inches, multitouch (with over "a thousand" sensor pixels)
- Screen aspect ratio: 4:3, same as regular TV
- CPU: Apple A4 custom design, system on a chip, 1GHz
- Connectivity: Wi-fi, 3G, Bluetooth
- Apps: iPhone, plus dedicated iPad apps, including iWork business apps, iTunes MP3/movie store
- Cameras: None reported, though heavily rumored
- Price: $499 entry level, no 3G, up to $830 with more storage, GPS, 3G
- Due: end of March
- Extras: Well over 100,000 apps available in app store
These specs show precisely how closely Dell is hoping to ape Apple's business model, right down to basing the device on a smartphone OS and aiming it at the same sort of casual business user that Apple is hoping to attract with its tweaked iWorks suite. While the Dell does score over the first-generation iPad, which will not have any in-built imaging, and a more movie-friendly screen aspect ratio, it lacks the amazingly full App Store ecosystem—which will soon be even more densely populated with iPad-friendly and iPad-only apps. The other big question centers on the screen size, because one of the transformational technologies in the iPad is its enormous touch screen, a feature the Mini 5 will lack...until a few generations later, buy which time Apple may well have boosted the iPad's specs (exactly has it's done for the iPhone) to keep it ahead of the competition.
So will the Mini 5 beat the iPad? In terms of raw numbers sold, I suspect not. The Mini 5 is positioned in the same marketspace as the iPad, but is more akin to a smartphone even while it lacks the smartphone's ultra-portability and the iPad's huge screen. But technologically it's a strong contender that may appeal to users who are Apple-phobic, but don't wish to visit the psuedo-touchscreen UI nightmare that HP will have on its competing tablet device thanks to Microsoft. On the other hand, while some thinkers are reporting excellent sales prospects for the iPad, other surveys suggest that the iPad's not as attractive to consumers as the iPhone is: AdMob's latest data, for example, suggests that only one in six current iPhone owners plan to buy an iPad (though the data misses out on the consumer who'd never buy an iPhone, but may consider an iPad.)
Whichever way it plays out, there's only about four weeks until the iPad is due.