The Hills Are Greener: In Which I Say Android Tablets Need to Drop Their Prices, TouchPad-Style

The Hills Are Greener: In Which I Say Android Tablets Need to Drop Their Prices, TouchPad-Style

Aug 22, 2011

The TouchPad is dead. Long live the TouchPad! HP suddenly killed off WebOS and the much-advertised but rarely-purchased TouchPad tablet, and suddenly dropped the price on the 16GB model to a paltry $99. This suddenly led to a massive spike in demand for the tablet. If someone woke up from a coma and went into a technology store to see signs saying that the TouchPad was out of stock all over town, they might wonder if they were still in that coma. If there is one lesson that Android tablet makers can take from the TouchPad, it is clear; they need to drop the price on their tablets ASAP.

If Motorola, Asus, HTC, and any other tablet manufacturers are serious about the tablet market (and if the iPad’s 30 million plus sales are any indication, they should be), they need to give up on trying to match the iPad on price. They need to, at least for a year or two, undercut the iPad at the knees. Sell those tablets or introduce entry-level models at $99 for the sake of market share. If the rush of people going out to pick up a discontinued tablet at $99 is any indication, people want tablets, and will go with non-iPad tablets at the right price. Apple’s marketing and design are too good to compete with them at or around the same price point, much less if they’re more expensive!

Android phone manufacturers can compete at similar price points in the smartphone market because the iPhone is still not on all carriers, and because pricing at $199 is much easier to compete with than $499 and up devices, not to mention that many good Android phones are often a cheaper option than the iPhone is. However, the difference in the tablet market is that tablets are more of a luxury option, and are not devices that will be constantly on a person like phones are. They are a secondary device to phones in terms of portability; going wifi-only with these devices is far more of a possibility than going with something like the iPod touch and a mobile hotspot. For the much higher price point, people appear to be deciding to go with the Apple option.

So it’s time for the tablet manufacturers to quit trying to compete on equal price footing. The tablet market is clearly different. It’s time to replicate part of why Windows became the dominant desktop operating system: because their machines were often cheaper than even entry-level Macintosh models. So Android tablet manufacturers, start cutting prices! I don’t just mean to $399, I mean $199 and lower. $99 if you can! Take a loss! Apple is currently dominating the tablet market, and there is clearly a demand for low-priced tablets. So start making capable but lower-capability full-size tablets. Start making Apple squirm. One company having a monopoly on an entire class of computers is not good. It’s not good for users, and it’s not good for developers, where having multiple potential options expands their business possibilities. The time is coming for Android tablet makers to put up or shut up, and the TouchPad’s short life and death in a blaze of massive discounts should teach these manufacturers some important lessons. The iPad can’t be competed with in the same way the iPhone is competed with.