Rumors have been swirling for weeks that Apple's working on a smaller version of the iPad (insert iPod touch jokes here) to compete with Amazon's lower cost Kindle Fire device, but maybe we've been led astray. Maybe Apple has no intentions of releasing a 7-inch iPad -- Steve Jobs always scoffed at the idea anyway -- and perhaps it's Google, not Apple, who will ultimately fight Fire with, well, something.
The days of having to spend a small fortune in order to have a tablet that doesn't suck are over. With the introduction of the Iconia Tab A200, Acer throws its hat into the ring of low(er) cost slates. It's priced at $330, and while that's higher than Amazon's Kindle Fire ($199) and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet ($249), the A200 is a full-size slate measuring 10.1 inches with a promised upgrade path to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS).
Isn't it swell to be heard? Sometimes all it takes is a collective effort to help raise your voice loud enough for the recipient to get the message, and if you need a case in point, look no further than Asus. We reported earlier today that Asus was telling the modding community to chillax while it works up an official statement regarding the Transformer Prime's locked bootloader, and we (correctly) guessed the news would be good...mostly.
It looks like the power of the Internet prevails once again. After word got out that Asus was shipping its Eee Pad Transformer Prime tablet with a locked bootloader, there was a call to arms in the modding community to storm the castle and let Asus have it via Twitter, Facebook, email, and wherever else. A day after it all hit the fan Asus is telling modders to relax, presumably because everything's going to be okay.
We're seriously starting to question the intelligence level of tablet makers, or at least their ability to predict consumer reactions to price cuts. Exhibit A is Hewlett-Packard's $99 TouchPad fire sale. HP's goal was to clear out existing inventory, and it did, but not before owning the world's most popular tablet, and arguably the hottest tech item around. What did Research In Motion learn from this?
We're not out to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but it's interesting on a number of levels that a chip giant like Intel would cut down the tablet market in order to promote its own Ultrabook form factor. It's interesting because Intel doesn't typically diss on form factors, and also because the Santa Clara chip maker would love to challenge ARM on what's become its home turf, and in fact will make a serious run at slates later this year.
One of the most popular tech categories in all of 2011 was the tablet PC. For the most part, Intel and Microsoft missed the boat, but luckily for both, the tablet ship hasn't sailed and looks to be just as popular in 2012 as it has been for the past 12 months. Come Q3, Acer and Lenovo will punch their ticket with tablets built around Intel's Clover Trail platform rocking Microsoft's Windows 8.
Somewhere out there, perhaps in an alternate timeline or in another universe millions of light years away, Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad tablet is the one to beat after living up to its potential as an iPad killer. But in this timeline and in this universe, the TouchPad is an obsolete relic that was pulled from the market almost as quickly as it appeared, and the future of webOS lies in the hands of open source developers. Could things have worked out any differently?
Android modders have hit the ground running in 2012 with a call to arms after discovering that Asus is using an encrypted booloader on its Eee Pad Transformer Prime, effectively preventing users from easily rooting and modifying their swank new slate. It's not an unprecedented move by Asus, but typically manufacturers refrain from locking down Wi-Fi only tablets, reserving the practice primarily for smartphones.
Google may be gearing up to launch a tablet of its own, one that could serve as a benchmark for other Android tablet makers to follow when designing their own slates. Eric Schmidt, Google's Executive Chairman, reportedly told an Italian newspaper during an interview that the search giant plans to market a premium quality tablet within the next six months.