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Handhelds Portables

What Might a $50 Tablet Inspire? (arstechnica.com) 169

theodp writes: Surprisingly, says Ars Technica's review of Amazon's $50 Fire tablet, it doesn't suck. "There's simply very little reason to spend more when you can get 90 percent of the functionality for a fraction of the price," writes Mark Walton. "The only real niggle right now with the Fire Tablet is the display (and the camera, if you really want to take photos with your tablet). Once budget tabs start coming with 1080p displays as standard, the writing really will be on wall. For now, the Amazon Fire Tablet is the budget tablet to beat." How does cheap technology like this mesh with Bill Gates's dream of putting a computer in every home, and projects like OLPC? Beyond that, any thoughts on what a $50 tablet price point might inspire in education, gaming, and other areas?
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What Might a $50 Tablet Inspire?

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  • Nothing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 25, 2015 @02:52PM (#50798307)

    It still costs over $50/month for an internet connection in most households, and that's if you're lucky enough to have internet available at your house. People who are unable to purchase a $100-$200 tablet are going to be equally incapable of maintaining a mothly subscription.

    Maybe someday we'll see "mobile" OS's that allow for greater disconnection, but the current trend with storage and content tranfer is totally against this customer empowered idea.

    • Come on. You can get a free connection at almost any McDonald's, coffee shop, etc. At least here in the US you can. Buying the tablet doesn't have to mean you must run out and buy an Internet connection.

      Aside from that (which is probably a non-issue anyway, as Internet connections aren't exactly rare, tablet or no tablet), this isn't a bad tablet. We bought a couple for the grandspawn and one to use in the tub - far better to drop a $50 tablet in the drink than a more expensive device.

      One (sort of) funny th

      • by kesuki ( 321456 )

        amazon's app may crash, but android has a lot of good apps including the GPLed FBReader https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_Android_e-book_reader_software [wikipedia.org] which while it is gpl'ed it doesn't do DRM. this leaves projects like project gutenberg https://www.gutenberg.org/ [gutenberg.org] gutenburg has a lot of old books. however beware, some public domain works like 'a princess of mars' have been converted into movies by disney (john carter is the movie version)

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I was headed out on the road and I pretty much hate tablets. So, I picked up another cheap one to basically throw away when it pissed me off. It was $50 on Amazon. Some Dragon Touch y88x or something. I haven't figured out how to root it or anything but it's not that bad for a throw away tablet. Think back to just 1995 - 20 years ago... Would you imagine that you'd have that compute power in your pocket? For $50?

        It's awesome!

        I still hate it. However, it was $50. I don't get the displeased comments. Dudes, i

      • we upgraded my sister's phone last weekend, and for $50 more we got a starter tablet at Verizon. the wifi is essentially free, as we have a large shared data plan, and of course it will be totally free at McDonalds, etc. on the web without DSL for a month's bill.

      • Every library that I know of also has free WiFi.
    • People who are unable to purchase a $100-$200 tablet

      What makes you think that people who can afford a $100-$200 tablet won't buy an Amazon Fire?

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )

      It still costs over $50/month for an internet connection in most households, and that's if you're lucky enough to have internet available at your house.

      In the US/Canada/Australia/NZ, that is. There are plenty of other countries that don't have that problem and where a Fire tablet would be attractive. Now, whether Amazon actually sells the damn thing elsewhere is another matter entirely.

      Fun story: almost ten years ago, I went on a trip to Budapest. Now, the city was beautiful, but you could still see that they were recovering from the Soviet regime. Many buildings were dirty and/or crumbling, a lot of people seemed to lack money for all but the most basic

      • Re:Nothing (Score:4, Informative)

        by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Monday October 26, 2015 @06:25AM (#50801581) Homepage

        In the UK the new budget Fire tablet has gone out of stock twice now since it's launch, and is currently out of stock till the 6th November, and has been for a bit. I think that fairly clearly answers the question of whether it is selling.

        Here is the thing about the Fire tablet, at least based of my experience of the original Fire 7 HD tablet I have had for three years now.

        First it still gets updates, mine updated fairly recently (last month I think). Not bad for a three year old tablet. Also the build quality seems pretty good on the older models at least, the three year old plain Kindle Fire model is still in constant daily use by my 8 year niece.

        Second the combination of parental controls and Freetime for children is second to none, and is only getting better with the new models.

        Thirdly applicable to the new models is they come with a microSD slot, which is super useful. It means that for not much extra you can get a 64GB card and stick a significant amount of movies/TV shows on the tablet. The idea that you would in 2015 have a in car DVD player is laughable. Handbrake the DVD and stick it on the tablet, which also works on air-planes, airports, and anywhere there is no internet.

        Finally because they are so dam cheap a lot more people can afford to provide one to all their children. My brothers two girls are getting replacement ones for Christmas, £50 is great value for money and more importantly the microSD slot solves the capacity issue for video content.

    • $15/month here with TWC's Everyday Low Price. I'm sure this plan will disappear when they merge with Charter and Brighthouse and they will only offer cheap internet to households with verifiable low income.

      Anyway, it's 2 megabits down and 1 megabit up. I wouldn't mind more bandwidth, but you can't beat the price. I don't have a cable TV package. Netflix streams just fine so long as you're not doing anything else at the same time. I bought my own modem and don't pay a rental fee. Downloading OS updates or Ga

    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      Most people in developed countries already have an internet connection, and even if you don't at home there is free wifi all over the place these days... Even homeless people have internet access these days:
      http://www.wired.com/2013/09/b... [wired.com]

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      10 bucks gets you decent mobile internet enough for browsing etc in most of the world. and even then 150 f bucks is 150 bucks of a difference in price. it buys 150 beers or whatever.

      the point is that even if you can afford it there's little point in paying that premium. smartphones are already going to the way that you don't really get that much better device by spending 700 dollars vs. spending 120 dollars and that price is going to settle somewhere around 50 bucks eventually - who owns that market will ow

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A $49.95 tablet.

    • What I would like is a device that I could connect to something like an arduino or small cortex board with lots of digital and analog I/O. It needs to run my programs very easily from some simple environment like the arduino or processing IDEs. And if possible I'd like it to just start up or wake-from-sleep into my code without a lot of overhead.

      Then I'd have the ultimate interface device. Sure I can attach screens to my Pi or arduino now but with cell phones and now tablets getting ridiculously cheap, h

  • Yes, it does suck (Score:5, Informative)

    by thsths ( 31372 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @02:55PM (#50798329)

    Sorry, but 1024x600 is a terrible resolution. The small screen may be acceptable at this price, but the resolution is not. 1GB of RAM and the MTK CPU also make for a painful experience. So it does suck, even now, and certainly even more so next year.

    That being said you can get some decent tablets for $100. But somehow everybody is already on the internet, and these cheap tablets have not caused any of the predicted revolutions.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      I think we have differing views on what is acceptable. I'm typing this on a 15" 1440:900 display and it's just fine so long as the UI programmer for a given application didn't go off the deep end.
      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        1024x600 is a long way below even 1449x900. I mean, it's not even SVGA.

        • by quenda ( 644621 )
          GP was talking about actual resolution, not pixel count. 15" 1440:900 is about 100 dpi. The Fire tablet is about 160 dpi, or 0.15mm pixels. Thats not bad.
      • I think we have differing views on what is acceptable. I'm typing this on a 15" 1440:900 display and it's just fine so long as the UI programmer for a given application didn't go off the deep end.

        A lot of web content assumes minimum XGA. Some of it even assumes more like 1280 pixels across. Slashdot itself is a bit shit at less than that, in fact. I think demanding 1080p or better is reasonable today. Maybe not for fifty bucks, but still. I have a TF201 and I know firsthand that this class of resolution is just barely enough today, and average resolutions are increasing.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Also, from TFA:

      At £50 ($50)

      Wait, WTF? $50 is about £32, and even including 20% VAT that's still under £40. Fuck you Amazon, stiffing UK customers out of a tenner. Even at this price, an insult is an insult.

      • Buy at Amazon.de or Amazon.es then. 60 euro (or £43 sterling). it will almost certainly ship from the uk

        Google translate really works well with German. Used to be Amazon UK was competitive but these days its better with amazon spain or germany, euro's is my currency and converting to sterling is bad for me but good the other way round.

    • Playstation Vita has 960x540, Nintendo DS has 256x192, low end smartphones have 800x480. Nintendo 3DS not much either.
      If anyone buys this it will likely be their mobile device with the biggest resolution they have.

    • The screen actually isn't all that bad. What's driving me nuts are the sponsored lock screens (Ugh, that damn "Game Of War" ad!), and the lack of Google services. There is no YouTube app, no Google Maps, no GMail, no Chrome browser, and no Play Store. Instead, you're stuck with the Amazon equivalents... and some of them kinda suck.

      I've been working on my own review of this tablet. It's located here:

      http://timeforanewfire.blogspo... [blogspot.com]

      • by narcc ( 412956 )

        Just install Firefox. That's more than adequate for most users.

        Who still uses a separate gmail and youtube app anyway?

        • Firefox isn't in the Amazon App Store. Neither is Chrome or even Opera for that matter.

          You can manually install the .apk file, but I don't think that a typical Amazon customer is going to do that.

          • by narcc ( 412956 )

            It's not complicated. A quick visit to Firefox.com is all it takes. It's less complicated that installing it on a PC.

            I understand the impulse, but I think you're underestimating the average user.

  • by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @02:55PM (#50798333)

    How does cheap technology like this mesh with Bill Gates's dream of putting a computer in every home, and projects like OLPC?

    What would we do without visionaries like Bill Gates imagining cheaper computers? Without him, people would have gotten confused and made computers more and more expensive!

    And the difference between Kindle and other low cost devices: the Kindle isn't intended to be hackable. In fact, the $50 is really a subsidized price.

    • by nyet ( 19118 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @03:23PM (#50798435) Homepage

      What would we do without visionaries like Bill Gates imagining cheaper computers?

      He never imagined cheap technology for anybody. He wants everybody to pay up, always has.

      How could he get as rich as he did w/o government subsidy in the form of statutory monopoly?

      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        That is kind of unfair.
        The cost of software has kept going down over the years. Take a look at what people paid for WordStar, VisiCalc or DBaseII back in the late 70s early 80s. Also take a look at what people paid for computers like the Apple II and Commodore Pet.
        As far as everyone having access to a cheap computer I think people like Sir Clive Sinclair and Jack Tramiel should get a mention. Microsoft tried to create a standard for a home computer as well in the 1980s called the MSX but they never caught o

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Star Trek had the right idea. Lots of cheap tablets replace sheets of paper. The cost has to be extremely low and they would need to charge wirelessly to be practical.

    • by MouseTheLuckyDog ( 2752443 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @05:42PM (#50799249)

      A comupter in every home was not the dream of Bill Gates. It was the dream of guys like Woz, Ed Roberts, Les Solomon and the Homebrew Computer Club.

        Bioll Gates dream was to have a Microsoft OS running on every computer on every desktop.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Yet, oddly, we can probably thank Bill Gates for the proliferation of the home PC. I don't really like him. I don't use his products. But I do have gratitude. His work was a good part of the driving force that made the PC viable for the masses. I'm sure you don't want to admit and will argue but that's okay. You pay what you pay and have the computer you have, largely because of Microsoft having dominated and pushed the industry. For better or worse, there's that. We can all agree that there were alternativ

      • A comupter in every home was not the dream of Bill Gates. It was the dream of guys like Woz, Ed Roberts, Les Solomon and the Homebrew Computer Club.

        Bioll Gates dream was to have an expensive Microsoft OS running on every computer on every desktop.

        FTFY.

    • An Inside Look at how Microsoft got XP on the XO [olpcnews.com]

      "Remember that a key part of our strategy is to create a situation where even if Nick rejects us for philosophical reasons there is a long as visible history of our attempts to work with them and then we have to ask to get a license for the "open source hardware" and we will make our own offering on the commercial side." ref [olpcnews.com]

      “Geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you’re not sitting there cranking the thing whil
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Bros, I hear that tablets aren't good for anything but consumption and toys. No matter how cheap the get, no matter how capable they get, they'll never be anything more than toys for consumption, and completely unusable for anything creative, or anything remotely resembling REAL work.

    I read that on Slashdot, so I'm pretty sure it's indisputable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 25, 2015 @03:04PM (#50798363)

    How does cheap technology like this mesh with Bill Gates's dream of putting a computer in every home

    A Tablet is not a computer. It is some kind of restricted interface digital device, made for content consumption and based around pictogram interfaces. Computers, personal computers, were always envisaged as flexible, customisable, programmable general purpose devices, based around computer and natural language inputs. Up to the last few years, most were.

    Tablets ape the general purpose functions of PCs by having glut of low quality, shocking single purpose apps, but no way to tie these together. Even the simplest of functionality, saving, copying, pasting, editing, is in most cases absent, locked down, or only partially available on these digital devices. Tablets are not computers in the traditional sense, and are far closer to devices like phones, TVs and video game consoles. Digital, but in general not user programmable.

    So it is no surprise to see such a device reach full "functionality" at a $50 price point. That is the true worth of the usage they provide.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      A Tablet is not a computer.

      Actually, yes, a tablet very much is a computer. It's got a CPU, RAM, display, and input method.

    • Odd; I've used the AIDE app as a tablet-hosted development environment, so it has seemed to me that any tablet with that (or another dev environment) is programmable. It's just a little more painful to do it on-device that it would be to use a personal computer for the development before deploying the app to the tablet. The big issue is the closed driver blobs that are used in these devices; that's really what stops us from actually unlocking their potential. Still, the problem is in the software, not in th
    • How does cheap technology like this mesh with Bill Gates's dream of putting a computer in every home

      A Tablet is not a computer. It is some kind of restricted interface digital device, made for content consumption and based around pictogram interfaces. Computers, personal computers, were always envisaged as flexible, customisable, programmable general purpose devices, based around computer and natural language inputs. Up to the last few years, most were.

      Tablets ape the general purpose functions of PCs by having glut of low quality, shocking single purpose apps, but no way to tie these together. Even the simplest of functionality, saving, copying, pasting, editing, is in most cases absent, locked down, or only partially available on these digital devices. Tablets are not computers in the traditional sense, and are far closer to devices like phones, TVs and video game consoles. Digital, but in general not user programmable.

      So it is no surprise to see such a device reach full "functionality" at a $50 price point. That is the true worth of the usage they provide.

      Yes & no. As AC mentioned above, it has a CPU, RAM, display and input method, just like any computer. No as in most of the functionality that one expects in computers is only half there.

      That said, your description is only true about Android or iOS computers. I have a Winbook, which is a tablet, but which I can use as a Windows 10 computer if I attach a keyboard to it, and use the tablet itself only as a monitor. In fact, that was my basic usage of it, before I got another laptop.

  • If you call right now, we'll double the offer. That's right, two amazing Amazon Fire tablets for only $49.99!
    • If you call right now, we'll double the offer. That's right, two amazing Amazon Fire tablets for only $49.99!

      If they did that, I really would call now. But they didn't. They did do six for the price of five, but that's more tablets than I really need or even want to own.

    • Just pay separate shipping and handling. That's only another $50!
  • by nyet ( 19118 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @03:21PM (#50798429) Homepage

    Bill Gate's dream is a world completely run by proprietary software, and a business model subsidized by government enforced statutory monopoly.

    Artificial barriers to entry is exactly preventing technology from being available to the underprivileged.

    The idea that Gates wants ANYBODY to have cheap computing technology is laughable. Water? Fine. Anything more advance than that? Tough luck. Pay your lords, serfs.

    • Well said but note that may not be valid anymore given their emphasis (and success) with Azure. Seems like these days cheap Windows and hardware is perfectly fine as long as the data is being locked into their cloud (stack). In that case, the more devices, the merrier.

      The bigger point of course is that we're reliving the 90's again. Whereas it used to be file formats that locked folks into proprietary dungeons, now it's the service that it's being stored in that will ensnare the victims.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Did you forget the dumb terminals of the 70s and 80s? Hell, we used to have to schedule or rent time (depending on who you were) to get access. That which is old, is new again.

  • It works (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Sunday October 25, 2015 @03:23PM (#50798437)

    I got one too. I installed Firefox on it with adblocker and ghostery and use it as my main couch reading gadget with readly, feedly, and all the flip-thingies.

    I got Amazon, Aliexpress and eBay and for buying stuff it's just great. Also to stream movies from my server to the bathtub.
    I always get the toddler cases, because they allow a much more relaxed grip but in this case :-) , the case cost half the price of the tablet, a bit steep IMO.

  • Nothing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @03:30PM (#50798475)
    it inspires nothing. It's a device wholly build around consumption of existing content and not creation.

    Now, a $50 general purpose computer? That'll inspire something.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Now, a $50 general purpose computer? That'll inspire something.

      Kids these days are truly consumers with barely a hint of creativity, inquisitiveness apart from about the Kardashians. Back in the 1980s I would have liked a fifty dollar programmable personal computer but as it turned out a three hundred dollar Commodore VIC-20 computer was the computer that I bought instead of a hundred+ dollar Timex Sinclair on the advice of my high school mathwmatics teacher.

  • All reports seem to state that the use of computers correlates with lower academic performance.

    Maybe as a means of distributing open source text books economically to the neglected parts of the world, this might be a winner, but it's difficult to see that it would be more economical than a cheap printing -- a paperback costs little more than USD1 to print.

  • How does cheap technology like this mesh with Bill Gates's dream of putting a computer in every home, and projects like OLPC?

    The geek can't let go of the media lab fantasy of a grade school classroom without teachers. I have yet to see any persuasive evidence that introducing tech at this level is of any value whatever.

  • by sethstorm ( 512897 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:38PM (#50798823) Homepage

    If it's not locked to Amazon's walled garden, it's fine.

    If it's like about any other Amazon device, then it's an expensive paperweight.

    • If it's not locked to Amazon's walled garden, it's fine.
      If it's like about any other Amazon device, then it's an expensive paperweight.

      The Fire TV stick lets you sideload applications on it, so you've been highly misinformed. I've only sideloaded Kodi so far, but next I will sideload the settings.apk so that I can bind my bluetooth keyboard. ES File Explorer is in the official repo, so you don't even need to use ADB.

  • First it's a Amazon fire tablet so it's locked down hard and the general public does not have the ability to root and install cyanogenmod on it. It's designed to get people to buy Amazon books, nothing more.

  • That's easy: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:49PM (#50798907)

    What Might a $50 Tablet Inspire?

    Surely it would inspire the same thing that a fucking color TV in every home has already inspired:

    complete and utter stupidity.

  • "The only real niggle right now with the Fire Tablet is the display (and the camera, if you really want to take photos with your tablet).

    What else is there to a table besides the display and the camera?

  • "There's simply very little reason to spend more when you can get 90 percent of the functionality for a fraction of the price"

    Sometimes that last 10% of functionality is absolutely critical.

    A window without glazing is just a hole in the wall.

    A car without wheels is just a bench that makes noise.

    A horse without legs doesn't go anywhere.

    A tablet without the apps you need is just a toy.

  • Does one exist? It seems there are plenty of cheap 7" tablets to go around, but once you get into the 10" range the only cheap ones are Windows tablets. If you can make a $200 10" Windows tablet why are all the 10" Android tablets $350+? It makes no sense.

    Of course this also begs the question -- why are all the Android phones in the $350+ range. If you can make a speedy 7" tablet with all the bells and whistles and sell it for $200, why is the equivalent with a SMALLER screen and a cheap cell radio go for t

    • We bought a 10" RCA tablet for $100 ($50 off normal $150 price on Walmart.com). The screen isn't super responsive sometimes and it can be a little sluggish but it easily does the 90% and comes with a keyboard.
  • This tablet is $50. And the latest Raspberry Pi 2 B is $40. If you add a power cord, case, and storage to the Pi, it is now ~$60. Imagine how many projects the tablet would inspire if it was reasonably programmable. Or how about the tablet without a battery and screen? Those are the two most expensive pieces.
  • At $50, does Amazon make a tiny profit? Or is it a money-loosing product launched to kill weaker competitors?
    • At $50, does Amazon make a tiny profit? Or is it a money-loosing product launched to kill weaker competitors?

      Isn't almost anything Amazon does a money-loosing product launched to kill weaker competitors?

      • But overall, Amazon is profitable, right? Therefore there must be some products that earn money.
        • But overall, Amazon is profitable, right? Therefore there must be some products that earn money.

          Sometimes it is (but not by much), but most of the time it isn't. And that despite making 30%+ on most of their downloads. They have to lose money on something.

  • It isn't just getting a tablet at $50, it is getting one that doesn't suck. lack of performance, storage and screen resolution means this device DOES suck for all but the most basic of purposes. Until the devices come a little more beefy (probably at a slightly higher price point) then these things really are going to mean SFA for gaming and/or education.
  • As if we needed further evidence that "Ars Technica" is in Amazon's pockets - more like "Arse Amazon".
  • Beyond that, any thoughts on what a $50 tablet price point might inspire in education, gaming, and other areas?

    Yeah: e-waste.

  • With PDAs. The first generation of PalmPilots ran $129-$399, which is $200-$590 in current prices. As hardware prices dropped manufacturers began to beef up features and performance -- not that most PDA users really wanted that. What really was driving creeping features was the fact that unit margins on a device that cost, say $30, couldn't sustain the industry as it had come to exist. Eventually the pressure of dropping prices drove the PDA manufacturers into the phone business.

    Again, convergence reall

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