Will Streak's Confusing Identity Help Or Hurt Dell?

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Is it a tablet or a smartphone? Whatever it is, the Dell Streak is coming: an Android-based mobile device that according to Dell will be available for pre-sale starting Friday and generally available on Saturday.

Already available in the United Kingdom, the Streak represents a bold play for Dell, which is looking to harness both the popularity of Android-based devices on the market, and also consumer interest in tablet devices in the wake of Apple's iPad.

According to Dell, which confirmed the U.S. release of Streak in a statement Tuesday, the Streak will be available for $299.99 with a two-year contract with AT&T, or for $549.99 unlocked.

Physically, it shares many of the characteristics of the market's top Android phones: it has a 5-inch touch screen, a 1 Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and is enabled for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G. It also sports a 5-megapixel camera with dual LED flash and a microSD expandable up to 32 GB.

It'll ship with Android, but Dell doesn't specify which version in the statement, only saying it's the Android platform "complete with Android Market and Dell user interface enhancements."

In a Tuesday blog post, however, Lionel Menchaca, Dell's chief blogger, indicated that the Streak will ship in the U.S. with Android 1.6 and offer an over-the-air upgrade to Android 2.2 later this year.

Menchaca further describes other Streak accessories, such as a Car Dock Kit and a Home Audio/Video Dock.

The price tag puts Streak above the carrier-subsidized versions of many popular Android smartphones, but below many tablets, including the iPad. It's an Android gamble for Dell, but Dell might find itself back at the drawing board if confusion -- and not richness of features -- is what consumers see first.

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