There's a new addition to the low end of tablet choices. Hewlett-Packard is out with a 7-inch tablet featuring a price tag just under $100.
The Android-based HP 7 Plus, priced at $99.99, offers a 1-GHz quad-core processor, 7-inch diagonal IPS display with 1024x600 resolution, battery life of 5.5 hours, a gigabyte of memory and 8 GB of internal storage, microSD card slot, 2 megapixel rear camera, 0.3 megapixel front-facing camera, microUSB 2.0 and 25 GB lifetime cloud storage from Box.
It is available directly from HP, runs version 4.2.2 Jelly Bean of the open-source Android, and has Wi-Fi as well as an accelerometer. It also includes Kingsoft Office software and access to Google's Android marketplace, the Google Play Store.
In short, it's the kind of specs you might expect for the bargain basement price, but, if the owner simply wants to surf the Web, check calendars, and use some undemanding apps, it might hit the sweet spot in the market.
HP has not been distinguishing itself in the tablet market, and this model certainly fits that bill, but its pricing does make it stand out. The company also offers a quad-core Slate 7 for $150, so it's actively competing against itself on pricing.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, pointed out that, in tablets, "HP started cheap [with their $150 model] and is staying cheap."
He noted that there are several other big brands with very cheap Android tablets, like HiSense and e-Fun, although those names are not as well known to U.S. buyers as HP. "Instead of going with a brand you haven't heard of," Greengart told us, buyers might opt for a low-end model that "runs Android, and might find [this model] fairly versatile."
In June, HP is expected to release its $200 Chromebox, using Google's Net-based Chrome operating system. The small box, weighing 1.39 pounds, will be available in four color choices, and two variations -- one based on the 1.4 GHz Intel Celeron CPU and the other on the more powerful 2.1 GHz Intel Core CPU.
Expected configurations include Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI and DisplayPort, and a 16 GB solid state drive. Pricing is expected around $200.
Analysts' attention is focused on the company's quarterly earnings, which are being reported Thursday. HP beat analysts' expectations for the last quarterly report in February, so the question is whether CEO Meg Whitman can keep the momentum going, at least in part by trying to enlarge its position in the consumer and small-business market.
On other fronts, HP released this week its Optimost Visual Test, a self-service A/B testing intended to help marketers rapidly find the best combinations of digital content by such segments as market or type. It also released updated point-of-sale systems, one with a small footprint and flexible mounting, and the other a high-performance unit with control features that could be utilized by the entire store.