Acer's $99 tablet: Just what the world needs?

Harold Maass
The Week
Acer is reportedly unveiling a $99 tablet (not pictured) next year.

The PC maker reportedly plans to unveil a gadget that will undercut the gadgets that undercut the iPad

Acer, the world's fourth largest PC maker, is reportedly becoming the first heavy hitter in the industry to make a tablet that — at $99 a pop — will be inexpensive enough to be within reach of a wide range of buyers in developing countries. Chinese companies making no-name budget tablets should be nervous, says Eva Dou at The Wall Street Journal. "At seven inches with a 1024 x 600 resolution screen and 1.2GHz dual-core processor, the so-called Iconia B1 tablet will have somewhat similar specs to Inc.'s Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Inc.'s Nook Color," but it will undercut their lowest prices by $40 (although the final shelf price might vary from country to country). Dou continues:

Acer's pursuit of lower-priced tablets will cut into its margins, but will help it secure a stronger foothold in the rapidly growing China market, said Daiwa Securities analyst Christine Wang.

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"Chinese white-box tablet makers are expected to sell some 60 million tablets next year, so it is a really big market," she said. "None of the major PC brands sells a tablet right now priced to compete with them right now."

This all "sounds great, especially if you're looking for a minimal investment starter-tablet for your clumsy kid," says Brian Barrett at Gizmodo. The catch is that it's "bound for places you (likely) don't live," as the $99 gadget is destined for store shelves in emerging markets with no planned release in the U.S. (at least not yet). And it's easy to see why Acer isn't eager to unveil this tablet in the U.S., says Barrett:

Different markets have different needs, and by the time the B1's ready for showtime it'll likely feel hopelessly outdated against the current U.S. competition, low price or now.

Still, it'd be nice to at least have the option, especially given that you'd pay $100 for the adorable but horribly gimped LeapPad 2. At the very least, maybe it'll give some other hardware honcho inspiration to do the same in the US. Looking at you, HP.

Acer's tablet, rumored to be hitting the market in early 2013, might never come to the U.S, says Rik Henderson at Pocket-lint, but it could certainly open doors in developing countries where, for most people, an iPad is not an option. One thing's for sure though. If a $99 name-brand tablet does hit the U.S., "there'd certainly be demand" for it.

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