Are Tablets Too Fancy and Expensive?

By  |  Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 2:19 am

Hardware maker Hannspree is best known–in the United States, at least–for idiosyncratic products such as TV sets shaped like fruit and zoo animals. But it makes some more straightforward stuff, too, including Android tablets. So far, its tablets, which aren’t sold in the US, have run Android 2.2–a fact that I instinctively want to squawk about, since that aging smartphone OS was never designed for large-screen devices. But I’m attending the IFA Global Press Conference in Spain, a preview event for September’s IFA consumer electronics megaevent in Berlin, and a Hannspree executive explained in an unusually straightforward and illuminating fashion why it’s using an old version of Android.

Here’s the scoop: Hannspree wants to hit a low price point for its tablets that will appeal to people who haven’t been ready to spring for any of these devices. But in order to use Android 3.0 Honeycomb, Hannspree says, manufacturers need to meet hardware specs set by Google–which include minimum screen requirements and which mandate the inclusion of two cameras. Hannspree plans to sell a Honeycomb tablet in the third quarter of this year, but for now, to keep prices low, it’s been avoiding Honeycomb and using a custom interface developed by a company named Tap ‘n Tap to make Android 2.2 more tablet-friendly.

Hannspree’s Android 2.2 tablet sells for 379 euros, or a bit under $550. (The iPad 2’s $499 starting price in the US is low by international standards: here in Spain, the most basic model costs 479 Euros, or about $690.)

Until recently, of course, Apple’s rivals have had trouble even matching the iPad’s starting price, let alone dipping below it; it’s only been recently that competitors such as RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook have managed to start at $499. I’d like to see tablets get even more affordable–so I’m at least vaguely sympathetic to the quandary  that a company like Hannspree is in. The world could use decent basic tablets at $399 or even $299, but with respectable software; I hope that future versions of Android–and, of course, economies of scale–will help to make that possible.

So are you in favor of tablets sticking to beefy components–dual-core processors, high-resolution screens, twin cameras, and copious storage–or might you be interested in something less fancy as long as it was able to provide a smooth software experience?

(Full disclosure: Messe Berlin, the organizer of IFA, covered my travel costs to attend the IFA Global Press Conference event.)


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9 Comments For This Post

  1. @Carydc Says:

    This is all well and good in the present context. I wonder just how closely these folks are following the happenings on this front across the pond. There are many Barnes and Noble Color Nooks flying off of the shelves right now. The reason is they can become a full blown Honeycomb Tab in less than 15 minutes with the right downloads and a SD Card of the right size. That is a full internet Tab with out cameras for less than 250.00.

    They may wish to take a look at the hype here.

    The distro used to root the Nook and give 1.1 Ghz performance that matches or beats most cellphones out there in the wild is Cyanogen.

    Many swear by Cyanogen Mods to Android these days. They are rock solid and get the job done.

  2. @Carydc Says:

    Correction. Gingerbread 2.3.3 release via Cyanogen.

  3. samirsshah Says:

    "or might you be interested in something less fancy as long as it was able to provide a smooth software experience?"

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

  4. samirsshah Says:

    No compromises in browsing, video and e-reading, everything else is gravy.

  5. The_Heraclitus Says:

    "Are Tablets Too Fancy and Expensive?"

    Depends. I can get a nice laptop for less that is 10X as capable as a computing device. But, some people like toys. Nothing wrong with that at all. I like toys myself.

  6. Troy Says:

    $550? …. That's cheap?

  7. Justin Says:

    The Nook Color. You can't beat an Android tablet for $250! Bought one, then another, and still haven't spent as much as one iPad and it is AMAZING and simple! This may be the product that saves Barnes and Noble. Apple Fanboys need not apply.

  8. JohnFen Says:

    I would be far more likely to purchase a cheaper, less powerful tablet than a beefy one. Perhaps I’m just blind, but despite playing with a couple of them, I just can’t see how they are even close to being worth the asking price. Even $550 seems quite steep.

    If I want beefy portable hardware, I’ll buy a laptop and get more bang for my buck, as well as a form factor that makes more sense for what I’d likely be needing all that beef for.

  9. Derek Longshanks Says:

    I've used both the Ipad and a Netbook. For my purposes, the Netbook makes more sense.
    Yet, for simple browsing [i.e. not excessive word processing/spreadsheet calculations] tablets are hard to ignore for their convenience. Oh, and paying extra for the 3G network? No thanks. I have enough monthly expenses as it stands.
    Perhaps when they drop in price I would consider one, but I'm still satisfied with my little netbook for portability and I have no problem buying books to read the old fashioned way.