Dell Goes Small in Tablets as It Prepares iPad Competition

It’s like Groundhog Day for touch-screen PCs.

Yesterday’s device of tomorrow (see Bill Gates’s 2001 prediction that tablet PCs would outstrip laptops and of course the Apple Newton) is once again hot stuff, thanks to Apple’s (AAPL) iPad launch last month.

Now, other PC makers are hoping they can finally create a market for technology that’s been languishing for years.

But while Apple’s gotten the buzz, and H-P (HPQ) has gotten attention for its Windows-based Slate, which it previewed three weeks before the iPad, Dell (DELL) has taken a different approach.

The Texas PC giant has been showing its Mini 5–a much smaller touch-screen gadget than Apple’s or H-P’s–since early January. The device looks like a big iPhone and uses Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system. Dell says the Mini 5 will go on sale later this year. When that happens, it will end what John Thode, Dell’s vice president in charge of mobile devices, describes as a two-year process to figure out what people who’ve already got a smart phone and a laptop would be willing to buy.

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