The rumors are coming from all angles. Let’s start with the most audacious one: that a forthcoming Google tablet might retail for as low as $149. That comes via a site called Android and Me, which cites a supply chain source calling the tablet “a done deal.” That’s an interesting price, undercutting the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet by 50 bucks. If it were comparable with those two devices in terms of specs, it might be hard for many consumers to justify shelling out for either of the former. (Then again, it’s easy to imagine Amazon slashing its own prices the instant it began to detect real competition; the Kindle Fire becomes a real moneymaker by serving as a portal to Amazon’s own content.)
Android and Me classifies that $149 figure as a “rumor,” however, and I’m not aware of that site getting other big scoops in the past. It will be interesting to see if the site’s claims are borne out. CNET’s Brooke Crothers, a smart fellow when it comes to hardware, deems the rumor credible enough or at least compelling enough to reference in a recent post, as have other tech bloggers of repute.
The waters are a bit murky here. The rumor mill began to whir earlier this month, as it often does, with a report from DigiTimes. DigiTimes said that Google and Asus would be teaming up to reveal a 7-inch tablet in May, and it situated pricing in the $199-$249 range. On the 16th, Chris Ziegler of the Verge weighed in with news from his own sources. He said that he was hearing $199, not $149 for the tablet, but he didn’t rule out that perhaps the thing could be available at both price points. It all might come down to whether or not a quad-core Tegra 3 processor will form part of the tablet. An early leak suggested yes; Android and Me is saying no–indicating, perhaps, that possible effort to undercut Kindle Fire pricing.
Android is the dominant mobile OS in the US, but when it comes to tablets, Android has yet to come into its own. Rhapsodic reviews like this one of the iPad 3 come together with phrasing like “a stark reminder why few Android tablets matter.” While Android struggles to compete at the high-end, it’s faced indignities at the low end. The Kindle Fire is an Android-forked device, and yet it managed to launch without relying on the Android Market; instead Amazon built its own Appstore by the time the tablet launched. Even back when the Fire first launched, tech pundits were crowing how the Fire “hijacked Android,” something that must have irked the folks over in Mountain View.
Here’s Google’s chance to fight back against the hijackers, then. As Android chief Andy Rubin has said, “2012 is going to be the year that we double down and make sure we’re winning in that space.” Perhaps we’ll see exactly how in May.