Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, and The Baltimore Sun, announced earlier this week plans to develop their own touchscreen tablet to newspaper subscribers. Technical details on the tablet like resolution and memory are still under wraps, but the tablet will run a modified version of Google’s Android mobile operating system and will be tailored to subscribers’ hometown newspapers. Cost is definitely an issue, and the Tribune Co. plans to offer the tablets to subscribers either for free or a subsidized price.
This is a bold initiative for the national news enterprise which follows in the steps of a July 2011 announcement by the Philadelphia Media Networkwho plans to offer discounted Android tablets to newspaper subscribers. For both companies, the bold move to offering tablet devices for subscribers could be ways to raise readership and revenue. And while the Philadelphia Media Network has not hinted at who would manufacture these tablets, word is that Tribune has been in discussions with Samsung Electronics. Samsung currently has eight versions of their popular Galaxy Tab in the U.S. market, available on Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and U.S. Cellular. With iPads continuing to dominate the U.S. tablet market, it will be interesting to see how media-branded Android tablets will be adopted by those outside of the Tribune’s audience as well.
The biggest question with regards to the Tribune tablet will be whether advertisers will support the platform. The Tribune is currently in bankruptcy, but Android has been shown to help pull failing companies out of the red — just ask Motorola. Tribune isn’t starting completely at square one though — they currently have a news app called Mosaic for Windows Mobile 7 and Samsung Galaxy Tab on Android 2.2 (also known as Froyo). With the new breed of Android tablets running Android 3.x (also known as Honeycomb), Tribune will have to play a wait-and-see game with Google since the Honeycomb software development kit has yet to be released to developers. This also brings up more questions. Will there be more custom apps for these Tribune tablets? How will Tribune handle core software updates? Will Tribune restrict users from being able to root their tablets? Will Tribune tablets be partnered with a cellular carrier?
Tribune is certainly taking a big risk with their upcoming digital tablet strategy. Do you think it will be a great success or a colossal failure? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think!