During yesterday’s earning’s call, Larry Page singled out low end Android tablets as important and an area Google is focussing on. Amazon’s success with the Kindle Fire is probably the main reason as it’s a forked non-Google experience device that Google has limited control over. With rumours that Google is involved with an own brand tablet for release later this year, probably in July, what might we expect from such a tablet?
As it happens, last month I evaluated this class of device for a client project. The latest tablets coming out of China right now probably represent what’s possible at low cost. That is a 7", 1024 x 600 pixel, $100 to $160 ICS tablet with WiFi but no cellular connection. The price might go up to $180 to $200 if it has an IPS screen. Expect one 2MP or 3MP camera, 1Gb of memory and 8Gb or 16Gb of storage.
I liked this class of tablet so much I now use a $130 Onda vi10 Elite in addition to the XOOM 2. It’s great for times when you don’t want to carry a large heavier tablet or when you want to carry something less valuable in case it’s damaged, lost or stolen. I think it would also make a great child’s device. My original evaluation was within the context of using these devices as single-use type devices for the enterprise. The low cost makes them ideal for distributing to very large numbers of people.
What are the chances of a new low cost Google tablet igniting the stagnant Android tablet market? ICS runs very well on these low end tablets. Games and Flash also work well. There’s a growing number of tablet specific apps (see my list) but I still think Google needs to do something to stimulate tablet specific development. I think the success of the Google tablet might come down how it’s sold. If it’s just via some Google web site then there will be modest sales. If Google can somehow (via the ODM partner?) get it into major retail stores and market it well (via a content partner?), it could gain significant traction.