Are Subsidized Tablets On The Way?

Ever since Amazon announced the Kindle eReader device, there has been speculation about whether Amazon would provide a subsidized version. It took a while, but recently Amazon started selling the Kindle with Special Offers, which is a Kindle that you can buy for $114 that displays special offers and sponsored screensavers on the Kindle screensaver and on the bottom of the home screen. Today the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News newspapers announced a pilot program in which they will sell discounted Android tablets that has access to their content built-in.

The tablets will have a icon on the home screen that loads digital versions of the newspapers, and The Philadelphia Inquirer app, which is a $.99 app currently in the Android Market, will be pre-installed. During the announcement today the newspapers did not disclose what tablet will be sold or how much it will cost. According to the Associated Press, a yearly subscription to the web-based version of the newspapers costs $155, and speculation is that one would have to sign-up to a one-year or two-year subscription in order to get a free tablet.

Obviously, the point of the program is for the newspapers to develop a new way to sell their content and not to sell tablet computers, so I wouldn’t expect the tablet to be a brand name model. In the past we have seen cheap Android tablets cost around $200 but had resistive touchscreens that resulted in less than fluid navigation of the device. Further, those tablets also did not have the Android Market or key Android apps like Gmail. However, now that the Amazon AppStore is available, it will be possible for low-priced tablets to have an app store that provides access to a large catalog of apps.

The pilot program is expected to start mid-August, at which time we should have a better understanding about the capabilities of the tablet and how much it will cost.