I’d love to be a fly on the wall at some of these Android tablet launch meetings. Take the latest vomitory salvos being hurled by Toshiba, makers of your shitty Walmart television. True to form for most tablet-makers, the “Excite” series will be offered in multiple sizes, in this case 7.7, 10 and 13-inches, which ensures an even distribution of product in African landfills in 6 months. They’re also offering the latest quad-core Tegra 3 processors, which means you may not experience significant lag when scrolling through web pages. Here’s where things get interesting, and by that I mean hilarious: the 7.7″ version will start at $499, i.e. the price of an iPad that’s 2″ larger, and has a screen that shames the 1600 x 900 Toshiba tablet. Oddly, the 10″ version costs $50 less (probably because it features a lower-resolution 1280 x 800 screen). I think the logic here is supposed to be “Look at our 10″ tablet – it costs less than an iPad!” I’m sure consumers will genuinely struggle when it comes time to pick between the two.
Lest you think that Toshiba is a brain-dead company specializing in releasing stillborn kit, according to Ars Technica (link above), there’s a good amount of consumer research that went into the Excite series.
Young Bae, a product marketing manager at Toshiba, told Ars that the company’s initial tablet offering, the Toshiba Thrive, had captured an odd niche of the market: two-thirds of the Thrives sold went to customers 55 and older, according to a survey the company took of buyers. Despite that buyers had much grander ambitions at the time of purchase, like gaming, most ended up using their tablets to just read email and surf the Internet. “We’re trying to enable the things that people are telling us they want to do but haven’t done,” Bae said. The Excite line seems to be an attempt to capture a savvier demographic that pays more attention to specs and weight, and considerably less to price.
This is awesome. Let’s break it down. In consumer electronics, the “odd niche” of >55 is also known as “consumers who don’t know anything about consumer electronics” aka “the people who still trust their purchase decisions to Consumer Reports”. It’s unlikely that this demographic had “grander ambitions” than checking email and surfing the web, which is why they – shockingly – ended up doing these things. One more thing: these consumers are the most price-sensitive in the market. So how do you capture them? By creating a product that appeals to what you think they want to do instead of what they did and then jacking the price of it well out of their range.