Now, I'm not saying for sure that Dell is deliberately leaking new products (or possibly mockups) to Engadget, but I am heavily implying it. Because if this isn't intentional, it's ridiculously incompetent. Unfortunately for Dell, if it is intentional (and I'm pretty sure it is), it smacks of desperation.
Last night saw the "leak" of the Lightning, the first Windows Phone 7 smartphone we've seen in any real detail, as well as a whopping three next-gen Android smartphones. I'm not criticizing the products; they all look really promising, and I'm excited that HTC has some competition in both the hardware and aftermarket software sides of the Android fight. But that's not even the end of it.
Also leaked is this 7-inch tablet, supposedly called the Looking Glass. It's the older brother to the Mini 5, which has been restyled and renamed the Streak before its summer launch. The Streak is a goofy product--its 5-inch screen is scarcely bigger than a large smartphone's (the HTC Evo 4G has a 4.3-inch screen), and that difference in size is of questionable benefit but obvious detriment, since it's no longer pocketable. The Looking Glass, luckily, is enough of an upgrade to put it into full-on tablet territory.
With a 7-inch (though fairly low-resolution) screen and a speedy Tegra 2 processor, the Looking Glass is significantly smaller than the iPad but significantly larger than a smartphone. It's said to run Android 2.1, presumably with a custom software skin, has a front-facing camera, and 4GB of internal memory (with an SDHC slot, for up to 32GB more). The screenshot shows AT&T's U-Verse, and coupled with the fact that all those other leaked Android smartphones are AT&T, it's safe to assume the Looking Glass will land on that network as well.
The Looking Glass looks fine, if a bit uninspired, and the rest of this leaked Dell lineup is far more impressive. It's not the products that are the problem--it's the mode of dissemination. Dell could have held a press conference, shown off these products live, and made a far bigger splash than unceremoniously dumping all of these products to Engadget at the same time. The iPhone leak was a big deal because Apple products never leak; the Dell leaks aren't a big deal, simply because Dell traditionally has a huge lineup of products and no cult of secrecy. Dell's gadgets often leak before their intended announcement, and to little effect.
If the leaks really were unintentional, then, well, that's embarrassing for Dell. These six products (one Windows Phone 7, three Android smartphones, two Android tablets) are the company's biggest push in mobile, ever, and I've got to believe they could have kept them quiet if they'd wanted. We can only hope the products themselves are better designed than these leaks.