updated 03:55 pm EDT, Mon September 12, 2011
PMN and Archos to sell cheap tablets for service
Philadelphia Media Network outlined its previously hinted plans to offer subsdizied tablets. The project will see 5,000 of Archos' Arnova 10 G2 tablets made available with a heavy discount depending on the subscription. The cheap Android slate will cost as little as $99 if bought with a two-year contract subscription to the Daily News and Inquirer costing $10 a month; the price rises to $129 for those who only want to commit for one year but are willing to pay a more standard $13 a month.
Each tablet will have apps for the Daily News, Inquirer, and Philly.com as well as the Amazon Appstore, Dealyo's discounts, Phrequency for local social life guides, eMusic, and a handful of productivity apps. The Arnova 10 G2 is the same on the inside as regular versions with a single-core 1GHz processor, a camera, and a customized version of Android 2.3 with Archos' own AppsLib store.
Locals can buy the tablet online as of September 13 or visit PMN's headquarters for the first week.
The deal, which is using discounts helped by Comcast, Main Line Health and Wells Fargo, is one of the first real experiments of its kind to see if newspapers can adapt to Internet-based subscriptions while keeping some traces of their traditional business models. Many have kept to running their digital and physical subscriptions separately or have been moving away from selling their own physical goods entirely, instead letting others' computers and tablets handle reading while newspapers disappear.
Whether or not Philadelphia adopts the tablets isn't clear and might be hurt by the choice of tablet. The Arnova 10 G2 is using relatively old hardware and doesn't have access to the official Android Market, putting it at a disadvantage next to other tablets, including Archos' own upcoming Android 3 models. Apple currently also has two thirds of the tablet market and may discourage readers who might prefer to buy an iPad at full price and use free news sources instead.
PMN and Archos haven't said how soon they might expand past the initial 5,000 tablets, although their adoption will likely be used to test whether the strategy continues.