Over the last few months, we’ve seen a truly inspiring race to the bottom with Android-based tablets. By the time the holiday shopping period is in full punch, we will have $199 7″ tablets from Google, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and several off brand competitors as well. These devices are barely indistinguishable by looking at them head on, and the price for all of them is identical, so the only things that will drive a user to pick one over the other would be to either touch them or choose by brand preference.
Of course, a third option would be to drop the price tag one step further and release a $99 device. A year ago if someone told me the Best Buy computer department would be littered with $200 tablets I would have laughed at them, so as is being rumored today, is a $99 Nexus tablet such a crazy idea?
Having spent time with the Nexus 7 $249.00 at B&H Photo-Video and the Kindle Fire HD, the two devices are both much higher quality than you would expect from a $200 price tag. Amazon has gone especially over the top with their tablet, including high quality audio and an impressive WiFi architecture. The $159 Kindle Fire isn’t quite as impressive, but still contains a performance bump over the original Kindle Fire.
At the current prices for hardware, none of the companies making $200 devices are making a lot of money. In fact, if you include the free content Google included with the first few months of sales, the Nexus 7 cost Google money every time one was purchased. Both Amazon and Google are in this to pull marketshare away from Apple, and both companies know that the easy way to do that is to simply throw money at cheaper devices that force those looking to buy an iPad to look down at the price tag.
Of course, if you look outside the US there are already $99 and lower Android tablets. Multiple 7″ tablets have popped up over the last few months ranging from $70 to $125, running Android 4.1 on unrecognizable chipsets, and ship with as little as 256MB of RAM. These devices usually sport a 480 x 800 display and a capacitive screen is often one of the most compelling features on the device.
If Google is making a $99 Nexus tablet, they would need to either drop down to this level of features, or eat the extra cost of every device manufactured so they could say they had the best tablet on the market at $99. I guess with that the question isn’t so much whether Google is capable of making a $99 Nexus, but whether or not anyone would want to buy one.