Post Netbook failure, race for the cheap to cheapest tablets starts in India

Post Netbook failure, race for the cheap to cheapest tablets starts in India

Summary: Powered by Android and the Android Marketplace, operators and low-cost mobile manufacturers are introducing affordable tablets for the India consumer.

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Affordable and light-weight Netbooks were expected to take the market by storm, that did not happen. Contendor for round two of mobile devices vs traditional desktops (and laptops) is the tablet form factor.

Last year this month, I wrote about how tablets could propel India as an indigenous consumer technology manufacturer. A year later, we seem to be getting there. Android has become the pivot for creating affordable tablets. As in case of phones, companies don't have to invest resources to develop a mobile OS and app ecosystem ground-up. OEMs and operators are instead spending resources to drive hardware costs down and improve distribution.

The past month has seen two operators introduce their brand of tablets and several OEMs are gearing up to launch low-cost tablets. The battle in India isn't about which tablet is better but which is cheaper. The strategy might seem flawed but India is a price conscious market. With Android powering the tablets, apps and basic features offered are standard. Any tablet sold, means a new user for app developers and sales for the distributor.

Anil Ambanis' Reliance Communications introduced a Rs 13,000 (~$285) 3G tablet. Manufactured by China based ZTE, the tablet has the following specs (in addition to the usual WiFi, bluetooth, GPS etc.):

  • 7" screen (480x800)
  • 389 grams
  • 800 MHz processor
  • 2MP rear camera; front facing: VGA
  • MicroSD slot (upto 32GB)
  • Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)

Reliance will be bundling a custom R World Online app and the tablet is available with a data connection. Except the processor, the device is a good buy. To promote the tablet, Reliance has an intelligent TV advertisement:

(Parts of the ad are in Hindi. The parallel shown is between sentiments of owning an expensive 3G tablet and Reliance's affordable tablet+3G bundle.)

Like Reliance, Airtel's sister brand, Beetel introduced their 3G tablet called Magiq. Priced at Rs 9,999 (~$219) the tablet has specs are:

  • 7" screen
  • 1GHz Snapdragon processor
  • Android 2.2
  • 2MP cameras (front and rear)

The tablet brakes the mental barrier of 10,000 INR with its price and has a powerful processor. However, it runs Android 2.2 and not the tablet optimized Gingerbread. The tablet comes with a data connection from Airtel.

(Image courtesy Hindustan Times)

According to Times of India, popular affordable mobile handset brands like Micromax and Lava are expected to enter this price race. If the recent rush to grab HP's (now discontinued) TouchPad at $99 is an indication, these low priced tablets might see some traction with the youth in India. Beetel and Reliance have an advantage since they offer data plans along with the device. Samsung officially unveiled two tablets (Galaxy 730 and 750) two weeks back with data offers from Vodafone. Both devices are at a higher price point. While India sees a rise in low-cost tablets are parliamentarians have been sanctioned Rs 50,000 (~$1000) to buy tablets of their choice. One would expect some austerity on their part.

Topics: Tablets, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

Manan Kakkar

About Manan Kakkar

Telecommunication engineer with a keen interest in end-user technology and a News junkie, I share my thoughts while preparing for my Master's in Information Management.

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31 comments
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  • RE: Post Netbook failure, race for the cheap to cheapest tablets starts in India

    Yep, and this is why I was saying they had no way of knowing for sure how many Android Tablets are on the market because there are quite a few of these that probably sell really well in India, China and the Like.

    Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if there were 20+ Million of these in customers hands in India because that's how things go, you buy what you can afford and Apple in many of these countries isn't affordable (neither are Samsung or Motorola for that matter).
    slickjim
    • And they are never used?

      @Peter Perry

      They don't surf. They don't use apps. Do they sit in dresser drawers?
      Bruizer
      • Why do you say "never used"?

        @Bruizer - where did it say they can't surf the web, and can't use apps? The article mentions them having wireless, and a 3G bundle is available ...?
        daboochmeister
      • RE: Post Netbook failure, race for the cheap to cheapest tablets starts in India

        @Bruizer Read the article, these are Android 2.2 and 2.3, you would have no way to differentiate these from a Phone! They are still tablets though.
        slickjim
    • RE: Post Netbook failure, race for the cheap to cheapest tablets starts in India

      @Peter Perry
      Devices like the iPhone and phones/tablets from Samsung/Motorola aren't unaffordable. Even though there are a lot of people living in poverty, those people wouldn't even be able to afford these tablets. I have a lot of uncles/aunts and cousins in India, and they are starting to spend as much as Americans. A lot of my uncles have iPhones, Blackberries, and Samsung smartphones, and even though they don't have 4G yet in India, they spend money on apps and surf the internet all the time. However, amongst the lower middle class, tablets like these could become quite popular.
      CurryGuy123
      • RE: Post Netbook failure, race for the cheap to cheapest tablets starts in India

        @CurryGuy123 And that lower middle class is significantly larger than in most countries and thus, there literally could be more than 20,000,000 of these things in customers hands.

        Crud, one of these configurations is the same as the Nook color and the other is the same as the Galaxy Tab.
        slickjim
    • RE: Post Netbook failure, race for the cheap to cheapest tablets starts in India

      @Peter Perry
      Wrong. India is no different than USA when it comes to tech choices. My sister is no techie and bought a galaxy tab last year and a sanding wave. I know how much she hated, but she had no choice. Now both iPhone 4 and iPad are available there she threw the Andries and went for iPhone and iPad. Androids can get to people who are first time buyers of smartphones and tablets, but once they see life outside they simply go to easier platforms. Only people like you and I, or other techies bang our heads over technologies, and the bloggers on zdnet knew this and purposefully twist facts to get more revenue, otherwise this site shouldn't be doing 2 millions a month for the junk that worths 80% of material posted.
      Ram U
      • never buy "premium" tech

        @Rama.NET ...its always a loosing proposition. I find its better to go with "good enough" and replace it every year or two. I only have so much I will spend on tech (that I am willing to spend that is which is completely different from able to spend). The more it costs, the longer it has to last me. Compare the following: Option 1: Buy cheap and replace once a year or Option 2: Buy expensive and replace every three years. By going with option 1, at the end of three years you will be ahead on technology and probably spent less overall because today's "premium" product will be the bargain basement tomorrow and useless garbage the day after that.
        cornpie
      • RE: Post Netbook failure, race for the cheap to cheapest tablets starts in India

        @Rama.NET I never said they weren't there but these items are pricey! The Indian wages don't yet match the wages of the US workers and I doubt the Apple devices are much cheaper in India.

        As for the Galaxy Tab, usability was top notch! If Samsung didn't cheap out on the build quality it would have been awesome but, they screwed the pooch!
        slickjim
      • RE: Post Netbook failure, race for the cheap to cheapest tablets starts in India

        @Rama.NET First of all, if your sister bought both a phone and a tablet last year, she isn't your average lower-middle class Indian. Secondly, if she "threw out" both of them after only a few months in order to replace them with an iPhone and an iPad, she's either wealthy or wants to appear so.

        Apple products are iconic luxury items used to show wealth in this part of the world, just like a Mercedes or a Rolex, though more accessible.
        daengbo
      • RE: Post Netbook failure, race for the cheap to cheapest tablets starts in India

        @daengbo India has more millionaires than the US!

        And on a completely different level, India graduates more engineers in a month than the US in a year!

        Yes! Those Engineers and IT guys don't get paid as much, thus their want for easily accessible and cheap tablets. These people KNOW technology! And will use anything to their advantage.
        I am Gorby
  • You get what you pay for...

    Gonna be lots of these littering the landscape pretty soon...
    Johnny Vegas
  • Landfill in some months.

    These are also-ran tablet wannabes that are going to end up as landfill in a short while.
    kraterz
  • How do dollars compare, e.g. in US vs. India?

    Just curious, if anyone knows - what's the buying power of an American dollar in India? When they say $219 for a 7" tablet, should we understand that as the equivalent of $219 in the US? Simple test ... how much is an iPad 2 in Inda, is the 16G wireless-only model ~$500 like in the US?
    daboochmeister
    • RE: Post Netbook failure, race for the cheap to cheapest tablets starts in India

      @daboochmeister
      1$=45 to 46 rupees.
      Ram U
    • Its more than just exchange rates...

      @daboochmeister ...and its easy to find out. I just Googled "apple store india" to find Apple's India store. There, the bottom rung iPad is RS29,500 which converts to $641 and it appears to be an iPad 1, not an iPad 2 (see: <a href="http://www.apple.co.in/store/mainproducts/ipad/ipad.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.apple.co.in/store/mainproducts/ipad/ipad.html</a> ). On the US store the entry level iPad 2 is $499 which converts to RS22,954. <br><br>FYI $219 US = RS10,074. This makes it appear to me as though Apple is really sticking it to people in India compared to their US customers. In fact, the price difference is so big that if you are in India and want an iPad, you may be better off having someone in the US buy it for you and pay the shipping costs to send it to India (if you just need WiFi and don't care that US 3g probably wont work for you).
      cornpie
      • RE: Post Netbook failure, race for the cheap to cheapest tablets starts in India

        @cornpie Umm, no that link has the I pad 2 on display.

        Now as for Rama's claims, lets say the average IT salary is around 600k Rupees... That translates to $13k US Dollars! No way, are the much money on a Tablet unless they are living like the kids in Slumdog Millionaire.
        slickjim
    • RE: Post Netbook failure, race for the cheap to cheapest tablets starts in India

      @daboochmeister ipad 2 16G wireless only should cost INR 30K, which is roughly 650 USD.
      dipaktk
  • Errr....

    Who said the netbook segment failed? It did quite well during its short time. Talking about crappy reporting.

    Oh. Who really wants to look at a tiny screen? Why do you think the 7" netbooks died fast in favor of the 10" netbooks?
    Gisabun
  • I wonder...

    ...if they will catch fire.
    happyharry_z