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A $99 Tablet from Acer

What does it mean for the global market?
December 26, 2012

Much of the conversation about tablet computing revolves around price. Last year, the release of the Kindle Fire at a considerably lower price than the iPad was hailed as a “game-changer”; if that was so, it could be doubly true of Acer’s $99 offering, which the Wall Street Journal’s Eva Dou reported on this week–particularly for the developing world.

A “person with direct knowledge” of the project said the Android-based tablet would be priced “around” that amount, so don’t hold me (or the Journal) to it. If so, it would be the first time a major brand like Acer breaks into that price point, which the Journal says is mostly the province of “Chinese white-box tablet makers.” That $99 price point is especially important in developing markets; prices will reportedly vary from one country to the next. The tablet may never even go on sale in the U.S., since that’s not the main market this is trying to reach.

Dou garnered some specs on the device, called the Iconia B1. It should have a 7-inch screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600, together with a 1.2GHz dual-core processor. An analyst she spoke with said that a budget tablet like this would likely form part of a strategy of “secur[ing] a stronger foothold” in the Chinese market specifically. In other words, it won’t be highly lucrative at first–but could pay off if that stronger foothold is indeed secured.

It’s a funny pivot from Acer, given that its chairman JT Wang reportedly thought that tablets were merely a fad, as recently as August 2011. Wang revered to it as “tablet fever,” and seemed to think the fever would break soon. Apparently not.

How low can we go? Will we ever see tablets break the $50 price barrier (and would they be even passably good)? VentureBeat’s Jay Goldberg visited Shenzhen not long ago and found a device that could be purchased at volume (20,000 units) for $35 apiece.

The downward price pressure on tablets could lead to their proliferation throughout the world. One blogger notes: “I’m happier owning a 45 dollar product which my pals in Africa can afford to chat back with me on, than I am with a $850 device which I play solitaire on.“

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