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While Microsoft, Apple and other ‘brands’ see the 7-8” tablet market as the next logical thing Android clones (CloneDroids) have yet again beat them to it.

Digitimes reports that the market for cheap (<$100), semi disposable, 7” tablets will be in excess of 100 million units in 2013 and that will devour as much as half of the more expensive market for iPad and other brand names wanting to charge several times as much.

“A 7” Android tablet can be produced for well under US$50. Android is Android no matter what features Samsung adds” says one clone maker. “We can even make it look like a Samsung” he adds.

The issue is exacerbated because the Chinese developed and made ARM based system on a chip has almost every feature that brand names have “All the clones have all the sensors, Wi-Fi and some have 3G – they are all part of the off the shelf dual core chips. Higher end quad core chipsets, more memory and better screens only add maybe $25-50” the clone maker added.

The main differentiator is the amount of memory. Clones tend to have 1GB RAM and 8GB storage (with an SD slot as well) and they are sell and forget items – the manufacturer does not support future Android upgrades (although there is no reason these would not run).

The CloneDroids are important to Asia where patriotism alone almost guarantees a sale over more expensive brands. The Clone makers are clever – a large variety of bright colours and funky cases is reminiscent of the smartphone cover craze – cheap is chic for this annual replacement item.

Intel sees Android potential

Intel is also paddling in the Android cesspool by actively promoting the use of its Atom chips with Android and is working with Lenovo on the Yoga notebook scheduled for May. It features an 11” convertible design with detachable keyboard for hybrid notebook/tablet use. However this move is seen more as a toe in the water as Android needs to evolve to Key Lime Pie 5.0 before it has the legs to support serious notebook computing like Windows 8 does. HP, Asus, Toshiba and Acer are all rumoured to be designing KLP based hybrids and even desktops for release later this year.

Clone makers see Windows 8 potential

Ironically the clone makers are viewing Windows tablets as more premium items and Digitimes expects to see an increase in generic and hybrid tablets and in Q3, “It is all about profit” says our friendly clone maker. “Android is all about cheap but Windows tablets with Atom processors can make more [margin] for us” he adds. Microsoft is helping too by allowing consolidated buying of lower cost OS licences.

Meanwhile do we have enough tablets?

Acer chairman JT Wang made an interesting comment (and in my experience he is usually right). He said that the total tablet market in 2013 will be 200 million units and about half that will be dominated by brands and half by clones. He said the massive explosion in tablet sales at the expense of more traditional devices like desktops and notebooks has slowed and he sees the preference returning to these as consumers grow tired of not being able to do everything they thought they could. In my experience I concur as the volume of eBay tablets rapidly increases. I do see a healthy future for smartphones and then hybrids.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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