ViewSonic hits $200 tablet sweet spot with ViewPad 7e

ViewSonic has unveiled the ViewPad 7e, a 7-inch Android tablet that retails for $200. The company is touting the tablet as a content consumption device that’s great for surfing, reading and mobile entertainment.

ViewSonic already has a couple of low-profile slates on the market: the ViewPad 10Pro, a 10-inch tablet that runs both Windows 7 and Android, and sells for around $650; the ViewPad 7, a 7-inch Android tablet that sells in the area of $290. But the 7e is definitely targeted at the $200 sweet spot in the market that’s also occupied by Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet.

The ViewPad 7e runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, not the Honeycomb version of the OS specifically designed for tablets. It has a 1 GHz processor and 4 GB of internal storage that can be upgraded up to 32GB. It also has a 800-by-600 multitouch display and supports RiteTouch, which allows you to write on the screen with a stylus.

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For viewing online video, the unit supports Flash 10.3. It sports two cameras — a three-megapixel rear shooter and a 0.3MP unit at the front of the tablet. It has an HDMI port that supports 1080p HD video. WiFi and Bluetooth are also part of the package.

Onboard apps for the 7e include TuneIn Radio, MediaFly and Dropbox, as well as ViewSonic’s 3D interface for Android, ViewScene 3D.

ViewSonic undoubtedly will not be the last tablet maker trying to revive its languishing products by following Amazon’s pricing lead, especially in light of predictions like the one made by J.P. Morgan this week. Based on information gleaned from the electronics supply chain, JPM analyst Douglas Anmuth predicted Amazon will sell 4.5 to 5 million Kindle Fire units during the last three months of this year alone.

The analyst added that Amazon has new 7- and 10-inch tablets planned for 2012, as well as 3G support for those slates.
What’s mildly amusing about JPM’s latest take on the Fire is that just last month one of Anmuth’s colleagues, Mark Moskowitz, was bad-mouthing the tablet. “We are not impressed with Kindle Fire,” he said in a research note. “In our view, [it] is a stepping stone, at best, into the tablet market. We think that for any vendor to wrestle momentum from Apple, a fully-loaded offering is a must, and here, Kindle Fire falls short for now.”

“In our view,” he added. “Kindle Fire’s low price point speaks to how there is much lacking in the device. At $199, we argue that the price point is not going to afford most users a tablet-experience, which is a problem if Amazon wants to become a major tablet vendor.”

The great debate in tablet circles is whether the devices are purely content consumption vehicles or productivity machines, too? When Apple designed the iPad, it designed it with both consumption and productivity in mind. However, for many potential tablet jocks — as the pre-sale numbers for the Fire indicate — consumption may be all the “tablet experience” they want or need.

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.


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