If you thought Amazon's Kindle Fire was the cheapest tablet you could get then take a look at Ainol's new Novo 7 tablet that retails for less than $100 and runs on Google's Ice Cream Sandwich software.
MIPS Technologies Inc. and chip maker Ingenic Semiconductor announced the first tablet to run Ice Cream Sandwich in a joint press release. The Novo 7 tablet has a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen and runs on Ingenic's JZ4770 1GHz single-core MIPS based processor. The tablet also includes rear and front-facing cameras, 3D graphics, 1080p video playback and an HDMI port.
"I'm thrilled to see the entrance of MIPS-based Android 4.0 tablets into the market. Low cost, high performance tablets are a big win for mobile consumers and a strong illustration of how Android's openness drives innovation and competition for the benefit of consumers around the world," said Andy Rubin, senior vice president of mobile at Google in a statement.
The tablet is currently only available in China through Ainol Electronics but consumers from other countries can order it online or wait for the table to come to other countries in the next few months. MIPS and Ingenic is also planning to release 8-inch and 9-inch screens in the future.
The tablet is fully Google certified and can run Google applications like Google Maps, Gmail, Google Music and Google Talk. It does lack access to the official Android Market since Google doesn't provide access to the Android Market in China.
"Android Market access is provided by Google through negotiations with carriers and OEMs as part of Google Mobile Services in other geographies. So Google will need to work with U.S. OEMs on this for future releases of the product," said Jen Bernier-Santarini, a MIPS spokeswoman.
Interested buyers can still download apps from third-party markets like Amazon for those who need their Angry Birds fix.
The Novo 7 has a lot of interesting features that should get this tablet some attention in a market dominated by Apple's iPad. First it has the Ice Cream Sandwich, the next generation Android software. Second is the tablet's very competitive price of $99. The last time a $99 tablet debuted on the market it was the severely discounted Hewlett Packard TouchPad and it sold out in days. And lastly the Novo 7 is running on the MIPS architecture.
In layman's terms MIPS is different to the x86 processors you can find in most computers and ARM processors in smartphones and tablets. MIPS chips can be found in TV sets and set-top boxes. It may not have the same efficiency and speed as ARM chips but MIPS chips but China is supporting this is as another way to cut their dependency on Western technology. How well it does internationally is the big question, but with its cheap price and Google support, the Novo 7 will find buyers.
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