The $139.99 Android tablet at Toys 'R' Us and the after-market opportunity for wireless
If Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions are any indication, the flood of Android tablets has already begun. For example, retailer Best Buy currently offers close to a dozen tablet-style gadgets, including the Android-powered Samsung GalaxyTab, Huawei Ideos, Velocity Micro Cruz and Archos "7 Home Tablet."
But perhaps the best evidence of the Android tablet storm comes from Toys "R" Us--home of Tickle Me Elmo and Bakugan Battle Brawlers--which currently offers three Android tablets: the Archos tablet, the Coby Kyros and the Sylvania "mini tablet." Indeed, Toys "R" Us offered a $139.99 Black Friday promotion on the Sylvania Android gadget, proclaiming: "Wow! Get the next-gen tablet!"
To be clear, most of these tablets--with the exception of the Samsung GalaxyTab--do not offer built-in wide-area cellular connections. Instead, like the non-3G Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad, they connect to the Internet via WiFi. And, based on inferred iPad information from Apple and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), sales of non-3G tablets likely will greatly surpass those of tablets with built-in cellular connections.
But what do all these Android tablets mean for the wireless industry? First, if sales take off, they could break Apple's stranglehold on the market. Second, and perhaps more importantly, sales of Android tablets (as well as Apple tablets) could help bolster the after-market accessory opportunity for wireless players, including modem makers and wireless operators. After all, Toys "R" Us proclaims that the Sylvania tablet is "perfect for kids of all ages, keeping them occupied on long car rides." Those rides likely will travel outside of a WiFi hotspot, and wrung-out parents may pine for always-available access to the Web via a wireless MiFi-style device.
Already, some wireless carriers have made tentative moves into the post-purchase market for tablet connectivity. Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) iSpot is designed to provide data service to iPad, iPod and Mac owners wary of the AT&T option. Likewise, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) bundles its MiFi with Apple's iPad.
While it's still too early to declare the tablet market a success, wireless carriers likely are gleeful of the prospect of $139.99 tablets. As tablet price tags shrink, those savings could well be spent on obtaining after-market cellular connections. --Mike