Two computer chip companies have joined forces to build what they claim is the first tablet computer based on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system.
Launched initially in China by Ainol Electronics Co. for just $100, the Novo7 tablet has a 7-inch display powered by a 1GHz CPU built by MIPS Technologies (NASDAQ: MIPS) and an application processor from Ingenic Semiconductor.
The slate, which will soon be offered with 8-inch and 9-inch displays, will be available in the U.S. within several months, branded by Leader International and OMG Electronics, among others. MIPs will show the tablet off at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.
Other specifications of the new slate include front- and rear-facing cameras with 1,080p video decoding support, as well as support for WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, USB 2.0, High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) and microSD cards.
The machine even has an endorsement from Andy Rubin, senior vice president of mobile at Google and the face of Android at Google.
"I'm thrilled to see the entrance of MIPS-based Android 4.0 tablets into the market," Rubin said in a statement. "Low-cost, high-performance tablets are a big win for mobile consumers and a strong illustration of how Android's openness drives innovation and competition for the benefit of consumers around the world."
The real draws here are the OS and the price. ICS, a merging of the Android 2.x smartphone branch and Android 3.x Honeycomb branch for tablets, includes software navigation keys, a holographic user interface and several other UI improvements.
The first ICS phone is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which has drawn rave reviews as the best Android phone yet by many gadget geeks.
While the Novo7 won't be available in the U.S. in time to challenge the popular new Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire for this holiday season, the low-cost slate could be an attractive wallet-pleaser when it arrives in the U.S. next year.
It's hard to beat $100-the price HP's TouchPad was marked down to in a fire sale that helped it fly off shelves-and most companies simply can't afford to offer one without losing money.
It's not clear how Ainol, MIPS and Ingenic will make much money from the new ICS tablet at its current price. But if enough consumers buy the slate, enjoy it, and spread the word to their friends and other consumers, it will raise the profile of those companies.