It's a pretty tough position to be in, being tasked with bringing to market a tablet device, in a sea of tablets, in a fast moving market, at a rock bottom price, funded by a mattress company founder with a technology vision. Unenviable, but with a chance of being ultimately successful? Maybe, just maybe...
Before I talk about what the AndyPad is / will be, let's talk about what the AndyPad isn't. It's not an Apple iPad. It's not a Motorola Xoom. It's not an Asus Transformer. It's not even a Samsung Galaxy Tab. What the AndyPad is is a low cost entry to the world of tablets, with the inevitable challenges that that brings.
Imagine that you're sitting in a room with a tablet case. A tablet case that's not super thin but isn't overly portly (and actually isn't 100% signed off quite yet), has space for a 7" screen and has the important bits you'd hope for on the outside (speaker, volume buttons, 3 capacitive keys, microSD slot, mini HDMI, microUSB, 3.5mm). Next to you is a box of bits. You want to sell the device for $x which means you can spend $y on bits, and you can't have them all. Such is the situation at AndyPad and whether the device turns out to be a success is probably largely dependent on what they choose.
The Andypad team are at least taking a sensible approach to developing the device. Upon entering the AndyPad boardroom it's clear that they've been doing their homework - the room is littered with boxes for tablet devices. High end devices (there's an I/O Galaxy Tab around somewhere), mid range devices (Advent Vega - yes, they've seen how NOT to do a screen) and the low end devices that we've all come to loathe (those ones you buy from that Chinese site you're not quite sure is legitimate) are all represented. So, they've carried out the appropriate due diligence... the next piece of the jigsaw is knowing the target market and what is important to those potential buyers.
With that in mind, the AndyPad is being designed to tick a few key boxes. The processor is fast enough to play 3D games on, with the required sensors for tilt based gameplay. The device has enough battery power to play the 'Lord of the Rings' movie with plenty to spare for a some gaming afterwards. The miniHDMI port on the device can output 1080P. The device is expected to come with a variety of popular content out of the box so the less tech savvy start enjoying their device straight away.
All well and good, but I know you, my dear readers, are geeks like me, so you want specifics. Some I can elaborate on and some I can't at this time... but here's what I can share.
PRICE. The price point for the AndyPad isn't set in stone yet, but it's going to be priced to target a market that doesn't want to spend hundreds of pounds on a tablet. Hey, if it undercuts the infamous Next tablet and is actually half decent that's a win right? How about if it's priced in line with popular handheld gaming consoles? Or high end eBook readers? With model specifications not yet having been finalised, there is still some internal discussion around whether there might be a base AndyPad and a 'souped up' version at a slightly higher price point.
HARDWARE. The AndyPad won't have a rear facing camera, but will have a front facing camera for video calling. As previously mentioned it has microSD expansion, miniHDMI, microUSB charging and a 3.5mm headphone port. The screen resolution / technology is yet to be confirmed but capacitive touch is not confirmed on yet for the base model. A resistive screen means no true multitouch, which is a worry, i'd implore the AndyPad guys to be sure they make the right call on that one. The device includes a very respectable 8GB of storage. There is still some internal debate around the amount of RAM to ship with - early samples have only 256MB on board - again, this is a potential problem if it doesn't get bumped for launch. A vibration motor is included for haptic feedback, something I lament the omission of on many tablets at the moment. The device is of course WiFi only, no 3G chipset, which also means no GPS. An interesting feature debate is around Bluetooth... does a low end, WiFi only tablet need it? It's still up for debate it seems.
DISTRIBUTION: With regards to distribution, the AndyPad will sell direct to buyers online initially, with other sales channels to potentially follow. The initial launch will be in the UK, again with other markets an option later. A full range of accessories will be available (cases, keyboards etc.).
SOFTWARE: From a software perspective the device will be running Gingerbread, with a fully unlocked bootloader. Work is ongoing with Google to ensure the Android Market is on the device for launch.
So the AndyPad team are at something of a crossroads. They have the potential to produce a device that will sell well and capture the imagination of both enthusiasts and newcomers alike, but the road ahead is full of potential pitfalls. The hardware decisions need to be right, the software needs to be stable and the device needs to ship in a timely fashion at the pricepoint for which they are aiming. The device needs to excel amongst it's competition in a market segment filled with devices that have one or more compromises that render the device seriously flawed. I expect to be getting a full hands on with a test unit in the MoDaCo office next week, so i'll update more then - and I plan to be helping AndyPad wherever I can going forward!