updated 04:10 pm EDT, Tue August 4, 2009
Dell 5in Tablet Rumor
Dell's return to handhelds in the US may be led by a mid-size device with an unusual sales strategy, one rumor maintains. A "well-connected" source in the industry for Wired says it would have a 5-inch touchscreen but would be based on Intel hardware, likely an Atom chip, rather than the ARM architecture normally used in phone-class devices. Rather than insist on a full price, though, Dell would give the tablet away for free in return for agreeing to a content subscription; users would agree to take books or "other media" that would be viewable on the tablet.
It would compete at least partly against e-book readers like the Amazon Kindle that don't have a device subsidy but instead give users a free Sprint 3G connection.
The finished product would ship within roughly six months, and at this stage hasn't received any early details, including the choice of operating system. Android has figured into a number of previous assertions and is known to have been in testing at Dell on Intel hardware, albeit on netbooks.
While as yet unsupported directly, the rumor implies a major Dell push into touchscreen handheld devices in the next few months as an China-only Android phone and an Internet handheld have both been unofficially forecast for later this year.
The timing potentially has Dell launching in nearly the same timeframe as the long-rumored Apple tablet that is unofficially slated for early 2010. It's rumored to be focused on Internet access and media playback first, not e-book reading.