Toshiba has taken the wraps off a new tablet featuring advanced multimedia capabilities. Equipped with a 7-inch color touchscreen, the Thrive 7 is expected to reach U.S. retailers in time for this year's holiday shopping season.
Powered by Nvidia's dual-core Tegra 2 processor, the Thrive 7 provides users with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity options. Toshiba's new machine, which runs the Android 3.2 operating system also known as Honeycomb, also integrates a selection of built-in ports -- including mini USB, micro HDMI and a micro SD card slot.
Still, Toshiba is expected to find it challenging to not only compete with Apple's red-hot iPad 2 but also Amazon's new 7-inch Kindle Fire.
"The Kindle Fire may be lacking some features on the hardware side, but has a very attractive content offering -- at least in North America and some international markets," said Gartner Research Vice President Carolina Milanesi.
Thrive 7 vs. Kindle Fire
By rolling out the Thrive 7 on the same day that Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire at a retail price of just $199, Toshiba is clearly aiming to appeal to "on-the-go consumers looking for a no-compromise tablet," said Toshiba America Information Systems Vice President Carl Pinto.
For example, the new Kindle Fire does not integrate a webcam whereas the Thrive 7 sports two. Toshiba's new machine integrates a five megapixel camera-camcorder for capturing HD video and snapping photos as well as a two megapixel camera for supporting video chat sessions.
Moreover, the Thrive's 7-inch touchscreen delivers a high-definition resolution of 1280x800 pixels vs. the 1024x600 pixel display sported by the new Kindle Fire. "The Thrive 7 tablet is the first seven-inch tablet in the U.S. market to offer a true HD display," Pinto claimed.
Though the Kindle Fire also runs Android underneath the hood, that device integrates Amazon's home-grown user interface, which is specifically tailored for smoothing interactions with the online retail giant's own services and content offerings. Third-party Android app availability is reportedly limited to Amazon-approved offerings.
By fully embracing the Honeycomb tablet version of Android, Toshiba's goal is to connect users directly to Google's full suite of mobile service applications. The Thrive 7 also provides users with direct access to the entire range of third-party apps available at Android Market.
Toshiba's new 14-ounce tablet will offer American consumers 16 GB and 32 GB storage options, while the 14.6 ounce Kindle Fire will ship with just 8 GB of internal memory. On the other hand, Amazon also provides free cloud storage for all content that consumers purchase from the online retail giant.
Toshiba has not yet disclosed a suggested retail price for the Thrive 7, which is expected to reach U.S. retailers sometime in December. Given the $199 to $499 tablet price range established by the new Kindle Fire and Apple's iPad 2, Toshiba will need to hit the sweet spot in the middle to enable its new tablet to thrive during this holiday shopping season.
On the other hand, pricing isn't the only issue that Toshiba America still needs to contend with. According to Milanesi, Toshiba and other emerging Android tablet vendors aiming to carve out a market niche for their new products will succeed "only if they can deliver a compelling set of apps."
"Consumers who want to do creation as well as consumption might find the Fire a little limited," Milanesi said in an email Wednesday. "But for some it will be perfect including the 7-inch form factor."