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Is the U.S. market ready for Android tablets? A wary Dell heads to China

by Kristen Nicole

It looks like China’s market is better equipped for tablets, according to Dell (DELL). The manufacturer is centering a good portion of its tablet efforts in China this summer, pushing the U.S. off until later this year, saying the U.S. market simply doesn’t offer a viable 10-inch tablet strategy for Dell. The Streak Pro is one of the larger tablets in Dell’s lineup, which has already launched smaller devices in the U.S. such as the Dell Streak 7, and a hybrid transition device, the Inspiron Duo. But the iPad’s dominance and the lack of strong alternative tablet sales in the U.S. has likely driven Dell to test other waters before having an all-out campaign in the states.

"This is not an either-or for us. This is a choice about where is the best place to take our story and avoids a bunch of the inhibitors and barriers to success that we've seen in the U.S. market," Thode said. "Things like confusion over what exactly Android is bringing to the table [and] an immature platform and roll out of devices that weren't quite ready yet."

Android’s immaturity keeps sales low

Google (GOOG) has faced a series of issues in establishing Android’s tablet-ready OS, even delaying some devices from hitting the market. And Dell isn’t the only company wary of Android tablets in the U.S. In May, NVIDIA (NVDA) CEO Jen-Hsung Huang cited retail, marketing and software as reasons for low Android tablet sales, leaving several factors on the table for discussion. Pricing was a sour note for Huang, while a recent JP Morgan report noting weaker-than-expected demand for Android Honeycomb 3.0. It all adds up to a dismal market in the U.S. in particular, while China’s large and rapidly emerging mobile market is seemingly a better testing ground for Dell’s long-term strategy.

Android tablets win long term

It’s that long-term strategy that keeps hope alive for the Android tablet market in general, as Google’s tablet OS is expected to eventually pull the same success as Android smartphones. RBC Capital Markets forecasts a rise in global tablet revenue from $11 billion in 2010 to $70 billion in 2014, with Android eventually taking the lead at 40 percent market share. And with another nod to established Asian markets, RBC General Manager Mike Abramsky attributes Android’s large-scale adoption to “broader support for OEMs and carriers and expected budget-price Android Tablets from Asia.”