Robert Passikoff, President, Brand Keys, Inc
Yesterday Apple posted iPad sales of 2 million+ since its launch. The iPad can send emails, draw pictures, play games, and is an electronic reader. With more and more apps available, it’s blurred the lines between smart phones and tablets and computers. Competitors have not been waiting to see how things shake out.
Dell has an android-powered piece of technology called the “Streak” coming out this summer. They call it a “tablet.” Except this one has a 5-inch screen, half the size of the iPad, and it can make calls. So while larger than the expected smart phone, it’s small enough to hold up to your ear to make a call.
OK, it’s smart but not specifically a phone. Or a computer. More specifically it’s a data-centric device that can download Web pages in full width that can be used as a GPS device and once upgraded to the Android 2.2 operating system, it will support Flash 10.1 and with a fast 1-GHz Snapdragon processor and two cameras (front and rear) video chats would be possible. One could safely call it a “MID” – a mobile Internet device, aka a “tweener," something between technologies.
The “tablet” category is too new and too small for us to track it in our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. The way things are going, perhaps next year. Or maybe a MID category in 2011. But in the meantime, here’s how customers rank their Smart Phone brands (where Dell does not currently show up):
1. Apple 2. Samsung 3. Blackberry 4. Nokia 5. LG 6. Palm 7. Motorola
"Tweener" technology has come and gone, but up till now the concept hasn’t been able to successfully embody consumer’s increased technological expectations and increased technology in a one-size-fits-all device. That’s because if you rely on traditional category and new-product metrics it’s hard to get consumers to meaningfully articulate size and technology combinations.
Dell's brand recognition might help differentiate the device from the dozens of other upcoming Android devices, but as everyone knows, brand awareness is no leading-indicator of consumer engagement or sales (Dell ranks 2nd after Apple in the Laptop Computer category and 5th in the Netbook category). And with the potential loss of iPhone exclusivity, the rumor is that AT&T will carry the Streak, although Dell has been closed-mouthed about both potential carriers and pricing.
Questions abound: Will the Streak be positioned as a smart phone, a tablet, or a MID? Will it be hard for consumers to grasp the concept of a smart phone- tablet-like device? Will it produce significant volume? Can the Dell brand successfully compete against entrenched smart phone brands, particularly Apple, even in a newly rejuvenated MID category? Is it a category at all?
Three sure things though: First, consumer expectations will continue to grow, especially about technology. Second, predictive loyalty and engagement assessments can help to answer some of those questions. And third, technology often presumes there's just one right way to do things.
There never is.