Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Light Begins to Dawn ...

... and personally I think some corporate fortunes are going to fall hard as this "$800 tablet" trend comes to a screeching halt before it really gets started.

I almost certainly wasn't the first blogger to discover that you can get into a decent Android tablet for less than $200, but I caught on before blowing big money, anyway.

Today, the Wall Street Journal's Brett Arends takes notice:

A lot of people are likely to stand in line to pay $500 or more for Apple's iPad 2 when it goes on sale Friday.

I didn't want to spend $500 for a tablet computer. I didn't even want to spend $400.

So instead I went online and bought a brand-new tablet for a bit less.

The cost? Less than $200 ... and about 20 minutes of my time.

No kidding.

I don't think Apple itself will come to grief. Their business model has always centered around being the fashionable high end in hardware. But Motorola and Samsung (to name two) are probably going to take big hits to their bottom lines if they're betting big on selling tablets in the $500+ range.

A few weeks ago, I was at my local Micro Center. The managers there all recognize my family, because we're always in there buying something (not always something new or expensive, but something). One of the managers came over to chat me up, and we talked tablets. I told him that I was waiting to see an e-reader/low-end tablet in the $100 price range, and that I expected to see truckloads of them at Micro Center when the bottom fell out.

He got a little cagey with me, and told me (quote as best I can remember) "at this point, there's really no way of predicting Micro Center's future with tablets."

That statement was what motivated me, a few days later, to go ahead and jump on the Velocity Micro Cruz Reader for $120 elsewhere. And naturally, within two weeks, what do I see at Micro Center? One of my other top picks ... priced to sell at $109, with an "open box" return for less than $90 (when Micro Center sees me coming, they sigh and start clearing a path to the "open box" returns area).

I suspect some corporate policy prevented that manager from giving me a wink and a nudge and saying "wait a couple of weeks and we'll have a deal for you." His job was to interest me in what they had in stock, at the current pricing. He didn't push that too hard, because he's dealt with me enough times to know I don't work that way. Unfortunately, it probably cost him a sale.

Anyway, whether or not you heard it here first, you are hearing it here: Unless you're an Apple cultist (NTTAWWT), don't blow $800, or even $500, on a tablet. Chances are you can find one that does everything you really want to do for less than $200, maybe even less than $100.

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