Maybe we should call this Windows NR, for “Not Really.”
At the GigaOm Roadmap conference, which I attended in San Francisco this week, I met Danish tech writer Nicholas “Charbax” Charbonnier, who blogs about mobile gadgets at ARMdevices.net. He showed me a tablet — shown at the right in my fuzzy smartphone photo — which you can pick up in Shenzen, China for around fifty bucks. It has a 7″ touchscreen, USB and HDMI ports and a VIA Cortex-A9 processor, among other features. And as you can see, it sports Microsoft’s brand-spanking-new Modern (formerly known as Metro) interface, as seen on Surface and other Windows RT and Windows 8 devices.
Except in this case, the Modern look is just a facade layered on top of Android 4.0 Honeycomb, the tablet’s true operating system. The tablet runs standard Android apps; the Live Tiles-style home screen is just there for show. See below for a photo of the machine with the Android interface peeking through.
The faux Windows skin is entertaining — and, in its own sneaky way, well done. Ultimately, though, what’s interesting about this $50 tablet isn’t the Microsoftian skin; it’s the fact that it’s a $50 tablet. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and other makers of serious tablets with carefully integrated software and finely tuned hardware don’t have anything to fret over, but the very fact that some Chinese manufacturer is able to assemble all these components into a computing device for this price — and maybe even build in a profit margin — is fascinating.
Charbonnier has a video on this tablet and other Android cheapies, including a $40 model. If you want to see how low computer prices can go, his whole site is worth a visit.