Shocking! Rob Enderle, who gets paid by Dell, says the Dell Mini 5 is superior to the iPad

Mon, Mar 1, 2010


Rob Enderle likes to tout himself as an “inquiry analyst”, a seemingly made up title that he defines as an analyst “paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them.”

In his capacity as an inquiry analyst, Enderle’s curiously provides his services to a number of major technology companies, including Dell. In fact, it was only a year and a half ago that Enderle was working closely with Dell to develop an MP3 player that would supposedly dethrone the iPod, never mind the fact that by 2008 the MP3-player war was already over.

I bring up Enderle’s ties with Dell to provide a contextual background for Enderle’s latest opinion piece, where he hypes up Dell’s Mini 5 tablet device as being far superior to Apple’s upcoming iPad. So let’s take a closer look at Enderle’s latest masterpiece.

I’ve been using the Dell Mini 5 for a number of weeks now in stealth mode. I also carry the Kindle DX which has a similar sized screen to the iPad and think Apple may have guessed wrong on this product.

Translation: I’m a corporate shill. I’m obligated to write a positive take on the Dell Mini 5 because I’m on Dell’s payroll. And they actually gave me a Dell Mini 5 to play with a few weeks ago, which I’ve since been using in stealth mode!

The Dell Mini 5 loads Google apps which should also scale relatively easily from a 3.5” screen to a 5” screen. You can put the Dell Mini in a belt pouch (big one), battery life seems to be similar to a screen phone and likely not yet optimized, and it is vastly better than an iPhone (thanks to its larger screen) for browsing, watching video, gaming (assuming you can find good games) and typing.

First off, what’s a belt pouch? I sure hope Enderle isn’t referring to a fanny pack. But seriously, there’s no denying that a 5-inch screen is better than a 3.5 inch screen, but what is the Dell Mini 5 exactly? It’s a tablet, sure, but some sources are reporting that Dell is looking to strike carrier deals for the device as well, turning it into a 5-inch mobile phone as well. The problem is that a 5-inch mobile phone is just a little to big for a smartphone, a fact conceded by a Dell executive who casually remarked that a 5 inch form factor is too clunky to use comfortably as a phone.

But first and foremost, the Dell Mini 5 is being positioned as a tablet – which is sort of odd when you consider that at 5 inches, the Mini 5 is in no-man’s land. It’s just a tad bigger than a smartphone, but significantly smaller than a netbook. In that regard, the DM5 seems to be combining the worst of both worlds; relatively small screen + lack of portability.

Second, it’s no secret that one of the fundamental advantages Apple has with the iPhone, iPod Touch, and the upcoming iPad is the extensive library of 140,000 applications available via iTunes. In contrast, the Dell Mini 5 will be running the Android OS whose Android Marketplace has been anything but impressive, both in terms of its selection and quality of apps. That said, note how Enderle casually mentions that the 5-inch screen is superior for gaming “assuming you can find good games.” Yes, it’s probably better to assume you can find good games than to actually try and find good games.

But it is the fact that you can toss your phone and replace it with this device that makes it work otherwise you have to carry another largely redundant device with yet another dataplan.

And this is the underlying flaw with Enderle’s article – it’s not entirely clear if he’s comparing the Dell Mini 5 to the iPhone or to the iPad. The reason for that, it would seem to be, is that Enderle himself isn’t entirely sure how Dell is planning to position the 5-inch wonder. Is it a smartphone? Is it a tablet? Is it both? Who the hell knows, but as far as we can tell, it seems that the DM5 falls painfully in between those product categories, yet doesn’t seem compelling enough to spearhead an entirely new product category on its own.

Next, Enderle takes the iPad to task for not living up to the Kindle.

I’ve been tracking my Kindle use and my tendency is to use it for nearly two weeks between charges. This is because I tend to read for long times,

Could of fooled me.

Because the battery isn’t very large it actually charges up really fast as well. However the iPad is intended to be on-line all the time, uses a high power (energy) LCD display and likely will have a battery life for reading measured in single digit hours and not double digit days.

Apple has made a big deal of how power efficient the A4 chip within the iPad is, and his argument here boils down to – “The Kindle is better because it uses e-ink and doesn’t provide a web browsing experience.” Never mind the fact that the iPad does so much more than the Kindle DX at nearly the same price, and never mind the fact that Enderle has no way of knowing how long battery life on the iPad will last when reading e-books offline. Enderle here is conveniently comparing a multipurpose tablet device (iPad) to a singular device with only 1 function (Kindle) and naturally only focuses on that one function.

Without a keyboard or flash it can’t be a better laptop for typing, browsing and real work, without phone features it can’t be a better Smartphone.  And at 10” if it had phone features you’d better love headsets or speakerphone use.

That’s just the thing, the iPad isn’t trying to be a better laptop.

It is a bigger iPod Touch and it likely won’t replace that either because it is too big. Can you picture trying to jog with something this big or trying to fit it into an iPod dock in a car or table radio? This makes the product additive but not as focused as the Kindle on doing one thing well and cheaply.

Another red herring. The iPad isn’t trying to replace the iPod Touch either. Who said anything about jogging with the iPad in the first place?

The Wi-Fi version will likely only work well at home or at the rare open hotspot and the WAN version requires yet another data service.  But you’ll likely still generally carry your Smartphone for calls and your laptop for work (and still not be able to tether) and if you have your laptop why use the iPad for browsing?  And if you have your iPhone and laptop what do you need the iPad for again?

Finally, a good point from Enderle. But, you could ask those exact same questions in reference to the Dell Mini 5. It’s still to early to tell if the iPad will be a raging success, but all of Enderle’s concerns regarding the iPad are amplified when looking at the very product he’s attempting to convince himself will be a success – the Dell Mini 5.

So while I am carrying a Smartphone, laptop and my Kindle I can’t for the moment figure out why I’d carry an iPad. It isn’t as good as the Kindle for just reading, and it overlaps too much with the laptop and Smartphone to not feel redundant.

Given everything the iPad can do, why would you still want to carry around a Kindle? If all you ever want to do, ever, is read books via e-ink, then sure, go for the Kindle. But how many people really fit into that category of consumer?

I think Apple should have built a 5” iPhone rather than a 10” iPod at least initially. I can see the Dell Mini 5 appealing to folks who want something bigger than 3.5” Smartphone. Now eventually, by version 2 or 3, the iPad will be a better reader than the existing Kindle but so will the next generation Kindle.

So basically, Apple should have come out with a Dell Mini 5. And what exactly will make the next version of the iPad a better e-reader than the current Kindle? Who’s to say that the first iteration of the iPad won’t be a better e-reader than the current Kindle?

Because of the type of screen version one of the iPad is going struggle as a reader and unlike most successful Apple devices it is hard to find one thing it does really well

So version 2 of the iPad will sport an entirely different kind of screen?

So there you have it, another Enderle piece fueled by the Dell dollars inexplicably lining his pockets. You would think that someone at Dell would be smart enough to realize that throwing duckets in Enderle’s direction is simply moronic.


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14 Comments For This Post

  1. Tom B Says:

    ““If is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”

    Upton Sinclair

    The secret to following tech is to only follow people / sites with a track record for integrity / accuracy: Ikhnatko; Munster (Piper Jaffrey analyst); Le Vitus; TiDBiTS; Roughly Drafted.

    Middle ground : Mossberg. Often pretty good, but hates to offend his Windows advertisers.

    Banned List: most of the rest, Enderle, particularly. Gartner, Forrester. Most stock analysts NOT from Piper Jaffrey.

  2. Nahum Sloan Says:

    ducats not duckets

  3. TI Says:

  4. SlothropRedux Says:

    First – this is a nice article, although deconstructing Rob Enderle is just way too easy. But still, it’s good practice. The rest of this comment is about practice – online writing doesn’t often have editors any more, so writers need to be their own editors. So… some comments.

    It is indeed “ducats,” sadly. Just ‘cuz the urban dictionary supports a misspelling doesn’t make it so.

    Also it’s “Could have fooled me,” not “Could of fooled me.”

  5. arw Says:

    I just love all the reviews for the iPad. I’ve never seen a virtual device so thoroughly analyzed, and spot on. No wonder Enderle can do such a bang up job with his comparison of the stealthy DM5. Where can I subscribe to his reviews?

  6. robinson Says:

    Tom B… Sinclair is one of my heroes. Thanks for the great quote!

    For those of you who may not know, besides being the author of several socio-historical novels (Lanny Budd; The Jungle), Sinclair also wrote a series of non-fiction, investigative reporting books (the “Dead Hand” series of books including The Goslings and The Goose Step–about blacklisting, censorship, & corporate influence in American education–and others ).

    Appreciated your list of current hi-tech writers and sites– and who’s been corrupted and who can be trusted.

    Anyone know of an interview or a video clip where Enderle has been called on his corporate ties? He seems like a nice fellow (if a bit scattered), but I’d love to see or read his response!

  7. Patrick Says:

    “Could of fooled me” should be:
    “Could have fooled me”.

  8. Tom B Says:

    Sinclair was a pioneer.

    Knowledge is power. Ikhnatko played with a prototype iPhone 1.0 at MWSF, right after Jobs announced they would start sleling them in–what was it–4-6 months? He said on the Macnotable podcast that the thing actually worked. I increased my holdings of AAPL; the device was clearly not destined to be “vaporware”.

    To the “middle” list add Pogue. A decent-enough writer, but something of a tool advertising vendors. Afraid to offend the Windows crowd.

  9. Peter Says:

    “It’s a tablet, sure, but some sources are reporting that Dell is looking to strike carrier deals for the device as well, turning it into a 5-inch mobile phone as well.”

    Because Apple didn’t strike any kind of carrier deal with the iPad…

    Enderle is basically saying that 10″ is too big and 3.5″ is too small. If you’re going to carry one device, 5″ may be the sweet spot that’s big enough to see content comfortably yet small enough to be “wearable.”

  10. slappy Says:

    Any major publication or news company who agrees or prints his drivel immediately qualifies as idiots.

  11. John Davis Says:

    Well, Enderle got the pasting he deserved. The comments on his article rip it to pieces, many of them less kind than this one.

    Let’s be kind to him. Put yourself in his position.

    What good is there to say about Dell?

  12. KenC Says:

    We know Enderle is a fool or tool, you pick.

    Strangely, I have been promoting the idea of a 5″ folding iPhone. That way you get around the oddball size of 5″, not quite pocketable, not quite a phone replacement. If it folded, guess what, it’s two 3.5″ screens, exactly. And, 5″ is not exactly a bad size for reading. The original Kindle had roughly the same usable size of screen as a 5″ 163ppi screen. Anyway, that was my idea.

    I’m getting an iPad. I think tons of average users, will find it extremely useful. I can’t wait to leave my Macbook at home.

  13. Wolfmore Says:

    I didn’t know about this bozo till I heard him today on the Wallstreet Journal thurs 3/11.  I can’t  believe the WSJ uses him.  Basically talked the iPad down and tried to say the full OS of the HP Slate is also a mistake.  According to him Dell mini 5 Is the only good product.  But he goes on to say the sales will be good for iPad thanks to fanboys only not because the UI is good. Really annoys me such a respectable news source uses this guy.

  14. macs Says:

    Actually on large parts of the article I think your being largely unfair on Enderle. I have an Archos media player 5″ screen and a mobile phone and its crap. Twice as much charging and twice as many cables when on the road. Frankly I see a Dell mini 5 as a perfect device as it combines them both, good screen size for video and capable of making calls. Though I am wondering if the new iPhone will have a larger higher resolution screen. A 4.3 inch screen and it could be an option.

    I also think you rather easily dismissed the point that the iPad overlaps with the netbook or laptop too much though is too limited to really challenge. Now if it had full Mac OS on there then that would be an option. I don’t buy the iPhones 140 thousand apps due to the large amounts of repetition and ifart apps. The iPhone and Android marketplaces are full of crap apps.

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