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The Hundred-Dollar Tablet

Yesterday HP announced their exit from the tablet and smartphone markets. We have been having a few lively discussions online about the implications of this event and how it may affect the tablet ecosystem going forward. Our contention has always been that it would be difficult for new entrants to make a mark if they only have "me-too" offerings. Even if they were as good as Apple's iPad, they wouldn't have the huge library of software, the App Store, or integration with OSX.

However, after giving some thoughts to how WE would go after Apple if we were in charge of product strategy at a tablet-making company, we realized that of the parameters available (size, features, price) for us to manipulate, the only viable one at this time is price. To get anyone interested in an alternative tablet, it would have to be priced at the $100 price point.

Of course, there are already tablets available at a $100. In order to hit the $100 price point, one must either use inexpensive components or strip features down to the bare essentials. Unfortunately, the first option is what most makers go with. As a result, their tablets, while feature-competitive against the iPad, are typically quite underpowered and offer a disappointing user experience.

Our approach would be different. We would opt for WiFi, a 10hr battery, and the best capacitive color screen at the expense of everything else (no camera, no 3G, etc…). It would have as little flash memory as we could get away with (4GB?) and only be able to run a limited set of apps (book reader, email, browser). It would not need a computer for syncing and would work right out of the box.

This strategy side-steps the issue of software (Apple’s strongest hand), eliminates the need to convince developers to write apps for the device (no App store needed), and positions the device as an accessory rather than a potential laptop replacement. We have additional ideas on how to get the final cost to consumers to be even lower. We are happy to share them for a fee. So if any of you tablet-makers are interested, just drop us a line. Our consulting fees are quite reasonable.

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