Dell’s slate roadmap revealed: Android, MeeGo and more…

Tablet projects at HP and Microsoft may be suffering from stalls and stutters but Dell looks to be forging full speed ahead.

What is alleged to be a copy of the company’s tablet roadmap leaked to Android Central reveals Dell’s planned devices with screen sizes from four inches to 11 inches in a period stretching to early next year.

The key takeout? Dell is backing Android across the board from a smartphone codenamed ‘Thunder’ to a pair of slim 3G netbooks running ARM processors instead of Intel’s Atom.

The slide indicates that the five inch ‘Streak’ slate and both the ‘Sparta’ and ‘Athens’ netbooks could also be offered with MeeGo the Linux-based mobile OS created by the merger of Intel’s Moblin and Nokia’s Mameo.

The slide doesn’t identify MeeGo directly but shows Moblin’s aerial-sprouting Tux mascot beneath Android’s lime-green robot indicating the slide was drawn up before Intel announced it was shuttering Moblin and pouring the code into MeeGo.

Note that the timeline running along the bottom of the roadmap is based on Dell’s fiscal year which begins in February and is calibrated to the follow year – so ‘Q1 FY11’ actually means February-April of 2010. The calendar used by humans rather than accountants appears in smaller typeface beneath the Calendar According to Michael Dell.

First to arrive in mid-year will be the already-previewed Streak 5. This five inch slate will run Android and likely also MeeGo as long as Dell’s developers can fairly seamlessly pick up with the new OS where they left off with Moblin 2.0.

The Android-powered slate will be topped by a bespoke Dell UI which carries to all-too-cute codename of Bender (after the robot in Futurama). It’s uncertain if this refers to of Dell’s Stage UI which is similar to HTC’s Sense UI layer and will feature on Dell’s Android-powered Thunder smartphone or if Bender an all-new user experience designed for the Streak’s larger screen and different usage models.

Billed as the ‘ultimate travel companion’ the Streak 5 will include 3G and be offered through Vodafone in Europe (and thus we expect Australia) while Dell has also inked telco alliances for the US and China.

The Streak 7 which at the time this slide was created still carried its codename of ‘Looking Glass’ will follow as an Android-only model. The slide makes a point of calling out that the seven inch slate will be ‘Wi-Fi only‘ with 3G not even being listed as an option. This seems a curious call to us although it’s possible that Dell wishes to keep the 7’s price wound down and also avoid any cannibalisation of its 3G smartbook range.

As a Wi-Fi tablet the Streak 7 is intended more for use around the home and in cafes  rather than on the go with Dell identifying “movies photos ebooks (and) games” as its primary usage.

Note that earlier this month we saw indications of a Streak 10 to complement the Streak 7 (a spyshot of both is shown above) which we suspect was added to Dell’s battleplan following the successful launch of the 9.7 inch iPad.

An upmarket variant of the Streak 7 tagged the Looking Glass Pro (which means we could see it as the Streak 7 Pro) is flagged for early next year and will carry a high-def panel and optional digital TV tuner.

Reaching up into Dell’s traditional mobility space two 11 inch netbooks are listed for mid-year and early 2011. But these are far from being your father’s Dell netbook.

They’ll sport an ARM processor in place of Intel’s x86 Atom platform which combined with the optional 3G radio makes them ‘smartbooks’ and they’ll run Android and MeeGo instead of Windows.

Editor’s note: German company Smartbook AG (or their lawyers at least) has been in touch with APC to point out that it owns the trademark for the word “Smartbook” in many countries around the world (including Australia) and that Dell/Qualcomm are not entitled to use the word. Seems like a second coming of the Psion dispute over the word “netbook” and perhaps it will end up with a cash payout to Smartbook AG but for now their lawyers’ letter requests that we make readers aware of the misuse of the trademark by other companies. NB. We’d like to offer some advice back to their marketing people and suggest they change their horrendous company slogan: “MOBILITY AND LIFE ON THE GO WITH SMARTBOOK FOR SMART

The ‘Sparta’ is described as a ‘netbook tablet’ with the thumbnail sketch showing a stylus-driven touchscreen that folds back over the keyboard.

If all goes according to plan the start of 2011 will see the debut of ‘Athens’ which Dell calls a ‘true netbook’ and reckons will weigh less than 900 grams.

Finally the Thunder smartphone is tied to the year-end release of Windows Phone 7 although it will also ship in an Android variant.