In part, that's because more vendors are entering the market. Although Dell has remained a minor player in the tablet segment, PC leader Hewlett-Packard recently unveiled the Slate 7, a $169 7-inch tablet that comes with an even cheaper price tag than low-cost $199 tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD.
"The tablet market is still evolving and vendors can rise and fall quickly as a result," said Ryan Reith, program Manager for IDC's Mobility Tracker programs, in a statement. "Apple aside, the remaining vendors are still very much figuring out which platform strategy will be successful over the long run. To date, Android has been far more successful than the Windows 8 platform. However, Microsoft-fueled products are starting to make notable progress into the market."
Intel has said previously that it expects ultra-cheap tablets in the $150 range to be available in the fourth quarter, below so-called convertible tablets that can double as both a notebook as well as a traditional tablet PC. Those tablets will severely undercut the price of both of the Microsoft Surface, whose Pro model was cut by $100 over the weekend, following a similar price cut on the Surface with Windows RT. "We're just stoked to be able to get it in the hands of more people," Dan Laycock, a senior manager on the Surface team, said Monday.
Do you care who makes your tablet?
What this seems to indicate is that consumers are buying platforms, not brands. iPads aside, the rise of the "no name" market means that customers still place value on the hardware itself, but other aspects, such as price, are equally or even more important. In part, that explains the "race to the bottom" that HP's Slate 7 is pursuing.
Overseas, low-cost tablets powered by chip companies like MediaTek apparently are gaining share, with negative implications for companies like Qualcomm. (As a sign that MediaTek is appearing on Qualcomm's radar, Qualcomm senior vice president Anand Chandrasekher recently called eight-core processors "dumb," an indirect slam at MediaTek's most recent announcement.)
Yes, there's something to be said for build quality. But as prices fall into the low $100 range, more consumers are willing to put up with the occasional glitch for a tablet they can buy for their kids and other family members. And while that's good news for tablet makers you haven't heard of, the market's top brands may be in some rough waters ahead.
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