What is Dell's Inspiron Duo, and Does It Stand a Chance?

The Dell Inspiron Duo tablet/netbook is coming soon--what's the deal?

The Dell Inspiron Duo tablet (or is it a netbook?) will be officially released November 23, CNET says, citing "industry sources familiar with the launch plans."

The 10-inch Inspiron Duo isn't an ordinary tablet--or an ordinary netbook--in that it flips from a Windows 7-powered tablet into a netbook in a supposedly fluid motion. It's a neat idea, but after the lackluster response to Dell's kinda-smartphone, kinda-tablet, the Streak, the question now is whether Dell can enter any kind of modern tech market successfully.

Specs for the Inspiron Duo haven't been unveiled yet, but rumors say the device will feature an Atom N550 dual-core processor, come in both 1GB and 2GB configurations, and perhaps even play HD 1080p video. Engadget claims that "pre-sale information" will be "dished out later this week, alongside Microsoft's announcement of a new store opening."

Pricing also hasn't been announced, but if you think Dell's pricing history might repeat itself, the Duo could be quite pricey.

Despite lukewarm reception, The Dell Streak smartphone-tablet-thing wasn't a complete failure. Dell gloated that the Streak was the most successful pre-sale the company has ever offered, but quickly dampened the enthusiasm by telling the Wall Street Journal that the Streak's initial sales were "interesting" and "exciting," but "immaterial to Dell's $60 billion in revenue." (Sounds to me like the Streak's sales figures aren't that interesting or exciting; otherwise the company would be a tad more, I don't know, excited?)

You could say that the netbook is essentially dead, thanks to the iPad and other tablets (but mostly the iPad). Combining a tablet with a netbook could appeal to consumers who aren't interested in typing on a touchscreen and who don't want to buy an external keyboard to do otherwise. But if the Inspiron Duo's main functionality is as a netbook, and the tablet portion doesn't live up to the expectations set by Apple's iPad, the Duo could fall amongst the other disgraced netbooks out there.

I think the Inspiron Duo's success (or failure) will likely depend on the price point--if it's more expensive than the iPad, consumers may go for the sexier Apple tablet; if it's less expensive, Dell may still end up skating in the red at first--but could go into the black eventually, thanks to budget-minded tablet hunters.

Either way, the Inspiron Duo's design is innovative, and it's exciting to see device-makers building outside the box of just tablet or just netbook.

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Brennon Slattery

PC World (US online)
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