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7″ Android tablets for $40! How low can they go?

Trefor DaviesMany moons ago when 10BaseT still trod the plains of Shenzhen and ATM was still just about available at the desktop I worked for GEC developing Ethernet physical interface components. On a number of occasions I visited our manufacturing customers in Taiwan to discuss specifications & show off new products etc.

What struck me about the high volume consumer electronics market that we were selling into was the total lack of secrecy in the game. Who was paying what for which component was know to the cent and if a new and cheaper alternative became available then the old part could be designed out in two weeks. It was all about cost, cost, cost.

As is massively obvious to us all this world has continued to move on. The days of discrete Ethernet components have long gone and everything is now very much system on a chip. You really need very little technical nous to put together new electronic gadgets and products these days. Reference designs do it all for you.

At the bleeding edge most of the differentiation is in software and the ease of its use: hardware specs are pretty similar and the battleground is in iOS, Android, Windows8 and “cloud”services.

At the trailing edge, and specifications seem to move to this space very quickly, it is still very much about cost. Much of what you hear is the high profile publicity pushed out by the tech giants – Samsung Chromebook £229, Googe Nexus 7 tablet running Android 4.1 (Jellybean) for £218, iPad mini £269 (expensivo), Kindle fire HD £159. I realise these probably don’t fit into “trailing edge” but they are cut down versions of the headline product or cheaper equivalents.

At the seriously low end there are some amazingly cheap me too products around that are probably seriously work taking a punt at. Check out alibaba.com. They have 7″ Android tablets selling as low as $40.89 – that’s roughly twenty five quid. it isn’t difficult to envisage having a few of those scattered around your house for when you want to check what’s on TV, the weather, train times etc etc. At that price the tab doesn’t even have to last that long. If it breaks chuck it away and get another one, probably even more cheaply. The performance needed out of these devices doesn’t have to be highly specced.

Although we all live in a consumer world some of us also operate in business. It is clear that the business world will also move to the point where the hardware is totally incidental and that companies will run on a set of integrated services defined according to the needs of their particular industry or market.

If I was starting a business from scratch today I doubt that I would set out to physically own any software. I might not even provide staff with hardware – they could use their own, cheaply sourced and probably more up to date than anything I would provide.  I would concentrate on the service set that I needed together with establishing an appropriate level of security so that my business could not be compromised.

The one thing that does differentiate the needs of business and consumer is the level of service received. As a consumer if I lose my phone or my broadband gets cut off its a pain but I’ll live with it for a while. If this happens in business it is likely to cost me hard cash and so I want to be able to call someone for help as quickly as possible.

2013 is shaping up to be an exciting year in the tech world. It’s going to be a fun place to be but I will start the year with  a slightly more serious end to a post. If you are in business you are going to need a reliable partner that can provide you with communications service levels that will help and not hinder your plans. Check us out here and give me a shout if you have any specific needs or questions.

Happy New Year :)

PS Oh and let me know if you have bought one of these cheap Android tabs & what the experience was like.

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22 thoughts on “kiss goodbye to the set top box – Android Stick

  1. Trefor Davies tref says:

    This is of course a consumer device but you have to consider that there will be many business uses. For example there is no reason in my mind why this shouldn’t replace the Chromebook that hasn’t really even taken off yet. If you can access Google Drive using the browser then it should provide you with the complete cloud based service set (I detest the “cloud” buzzword but can’t really see a way around using it).

  2. Phil Veale says:

    I have a strange memory of ordering one of these about a year ago, then after waiting about 2 months, wondering when it was being delivered, and searching my emails for an order confirmation. I never found one. I have this bizarre false memory of ordering one, apparently.

  3. Phil Veale says:

    Regarding the “Consumer” versus “Business” applications, the reason I’d ordered one was that I wanted to see if it was a viable solution to turn ordinary flat screen TVs into Wallboard systems to use with our call centre product – which is just a web based thing, so all you need to do is hook up something with a web browser (and a bit of grunt to handle the javascript). The Stick seemed ideal, far better than using a SFF PC or even a midi tower PC to drive the things.

    But it never turned up so I never found out. We did find that an R-Pi didn’t quite have enough power to do the job, though.

  4. Trefor Davies tref says:

    That’s a v interesting application Phil. Might be worth you trying to order one again – I think things have moved on a lot in a year.

  5. Hi Tref,

    Have you checked out http://infinitec.com/pocket-tv/features/ ? I was a kickstarter backer of this android HDMI stick project – a Christmas present for my Dad, who totally loves that I’ve turned his 42inch living room TV into a giant computer! Skyping me from his TV, sharing files from his PC upstairs to view movies & pictures, streaming TV & movies :-)

    The software is still in beta ( runs on Android Jellybean) , but soon to move into Alpha – it’s a small company based in Dubai who are interacting with their users on the user forum to sort out the bugs and improve the performance.

    I love new tech :-) And my Dad is a total gadget fiend!

  6. Trefor Davies tref says:

    Looks good Baskers though quite high end at $159

  7. PhilT says:

    Don’t make any assumptions about Android support from BBC iPlayer, LoveFilm and similar apps, their digital rights and iThing obsessions keep getting in the way.

  8. I paid less ( around $105) as I was one of the first kick starter backers – but other dongles don’t give you the level of support that you get with infinitec.

    They are constantly releasing new firmware updates, taking feedback from the community forums and are also developing their own Apple/Android remote apps for the PTV.

    It’s a high quality build that sets it apart from the cheaper Chinese imports :-)

  9. Trefor Davies tref says:

    That’s a fair point. The majority of consumers will need support. It’s going to be an interesting space to watch.

  10. Phil Veale says:

    It’s strange the the Nexus Q seemed to die out as soon as it was launched. It would have been a nice product and with Google behind them I bet they’d have moved a lot of units too.

    I wonder if it was sort of pulled after analysts at Samsung and co. realised that we won’t spend more money over the next 5 years re-buying Televisions all over again as “Smart TVs” (as with the VCR -> DVD ->Blu-ray cycle), if we’d already got that functionality in a device today.

    Sometimes I think the big tech companies deliberately throw the brakes on things to slow us down so we end up upgrading year on year rather than making products to truly last.

  11. Pierre Ketteridge says:

    Tref, pls keep me (and all of us!) updated with what you find out about this – I’d love a cheap way to connect a (USB/HDMI) stick to the TV and stream Internet content via WiFi… I too suffer from intermittent access to a proper TV screen experience due to wife|soaps, kids|CBBC/CITV and Wii/X-Box plugins, spending most of my time watching poorly-pixellated, buffered content on my laptop with the earphones on!

  12. Trefor Davies tref says:

    Phil, that’s pretty prescient & it wouldn’t surprise me if you hit the nail on the head with the Samsung observation. I think it behoves us to find the right solution.

  13. Ted K. says:

    On the TV front (only one but there’s a demand for three or more) have you looked into getting a couple of inexpensive, dorm-size, multi-input flat panels ? The one I have in my bedroom for an occasional movie is a ViewSonic N1630w. It’s a little small in terms of the picture but it takes up very little room and serves as the fallback display for my Mac.

  14. Trefor Davies tref says:

    Trouble is Ted I am inherently anti TV. We got our first TV when our oldest son Tom was 13 and that was purely down to pressure from our daughter who had just gone up to High School. So the idea of having a second is an anathema to me especially as I don’t want to encourage the other kids to watch more.

    That said everyone in the house has a laptop as well as a smart phone and there is a floating iPad so there are plenty of ways of watching stuff other than the old fashioned way.

  15. Trefor Davies tref says:

    Cop this
    http://dx.com/p/u2-mini-android-4-0-network-multi-media-player-w-wi-fi-hdmi-tf-black-4gb-ddr-iii-1gb-145864?Utm_rid=93072394&Utm_source=affiliate

    It’s an Android dongle for $20 – that’s roughly £12.50! It’s one of the mass produced cheap ones, but one of the resident gadget geeks at work tells me they are very hackable and can easily run full linux distros like Ubuntu.

    Hardware is cheap. It’s all down to the software & User Interface

  16. Kyle Gordon says:

    These MK802 devices look fab, although I’m keeping my options open until the Ouya is reviewed. For $99 the Ouya looks promising. All of the above features, except faster, and with a gaming controller as well.

  17. Trefor Davies tref says:

    Kyle
    I’m not a gamer but Ouya does look very interesting. It amazes me how big the gaming industry has become and there is no reason why this shouldn’t be a success as long as the usability is good.

  18. Trefor Davies tref says:

    One also has to speculate that with all these different applications for Android the day must surely be not far off when the Play Store has more to offer than any other online Apps portal – if it isn’t already there.

  19. Kyle Gordon says:

    Oh totally, I’m not a gamer either. I’m just impressed by the power behind this little thing, the flexibility it provides, and the fact that the XBMC team have paired up with Ouya to provide a stable platform. Exciting times :-)

  20. Phil Veale says:

    Mine arrived from China today;

    http://goo.gl/hETSV

    1. Trefor Davies tref says:

      let us know how you get on

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