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Dell announces Streak, a 5-inch Android-based iPad competitor

Dell's entry into the tablet market was made official Tuesday with the Streak, previously shown at CES 2010 as a concept, now set to take on Apple's iPad in the U.K. in early June, and in the U.S. later this summer.

The 5-inch touchscreen device, formerly known as the Mini 5, was formally announced by Dell on the company's official blog. The 3G-enabled smartphone and tablet will be exclusive to the O2 network in the U.K. and will go on sale June 4. The tablet device is about half the size of Apple's 9.7-inch iPad.

"I've been at Dell for 16 years, and I don't think there's ever been more buzz around a single Dell product than this," wrote Lionel Menchaca, chief blogger for the Round Rock, Tex., company. "In my view, that's for good reason. Hardware and design-wise, this thing impresses. Add the ever-increasing capability that Android brings to the equation, and you've got a mobile device that offers a ton of flexibility while looking cool in the process."

Over-the-air upgrades will bring the latest software to the platform, including Adobe Flash 10.1 and Android 2.2 "later this year," he wrote.

The device has a capacitive multitouch display with a 800x480 pixel resolution display, powered by a 1GHz Snapdragon ARM-based processor from Qualcomm. It also sports a 5 megapixel autofocus camera with dual LED flash, VGA front-facing camera for video chat functionality "down the road," removable battery, 3.5mm headphone jack, integrated 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and a Micro SD slot offering up to 32GB.

The Dell Streak runs a customized version of Google's Android mobile operating system, allowing multitouch gestures and adding "Dell user interface enhancements." It also has access to the nearly 40,000 applications on the Android Marketplace, Microsoft Exchange connectivity, turn-by-turn navigation with Google Maps, and support for Google Voice.

Dell first showed off the device, akin to a large iPod touch, at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The slate-style device was briefly flashed by executives from Dell, as many companies introduced their own tablets before Apple's official unveiling of the iPad.

No U.S. carriers or partners have been announced, nor has Dell revealed any pricing on data plans or hardware. Menchaca simply noted that further information is forthcoming.

In a video showing off the hardware, Kevin Andrew, a member of the Dell Streak development team, said that the device could be used for consuming content on the go, including e-books, music and movies. Andrew said he's also used it as his primary phone while testing the device.

"For me, this is a fantastic device because it combines the capability of the Android platform with a great industrial design and form factor that can go with me wherever I want," he said.

As companies look to compete with Apple in the tablet space, many have turned to mobile operating systems like Android instead of traditional operating systems like Windows 7. Most recently, it was rumored that HP scrapped Windows for its forthcoming Slate PC that was shown off at CES with Microsoft. The company's $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm is expected to pave the way for devices powered by WebOS, the mobile touchscreen operating system Palm created for its Pre smartphone.