Philadelphia Media Network, owner of The Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, will offer up to 5,000 Arnova 10 G2 tablet computers for sale starting Tuesday for as little as $99 to customers who agree to purchase discount subscriptions to three applications developed for the newly released Android tablet, company officials said.
The media company said the total cost of a tablet package, which requires customers to agree to a one- or two-year subscription to the apps, amounted to discounts of more than 50 percent off the retail value of the tablet and subscriptions.
Customers who sign up for a two-year subscription to the package of apps will pay $99 for the tablet plus $10 every four weeks, for a total price of about $359, a discount of more than 60 percent off their combined retail price. Customers who agree to a one-year subscription will pay $129 for the tablet plus $13 every four weeks, for a total of $298 that is more than half off the unbundled price. The tablet is not yet sold in the United States, but has an expected retail price of $250, the company said.
The package includes replica-edition apps of The Inquirer and Daily News, in which tablet users can view digital images of every page of the newspapers, or click on headlines to see enlarged versions of each article or column. Subscriptions to those apps, initially developed for owners of Apple's popular iPad tablet, each sell separately for $2.99 a week.
The offer also includes a newly developed multimedia app that expands on The Inquirer's content with photo galleries, video, social-media links, and other new features, the company said. Separate subscriptions to the new app will eventually be sold for $45 a year, the company said.
It provided an early look at its offer to Adweek, a trade publication, which described it Monday as a "bold tablet plan" and "a big bet on the tablet market." Adweek said the tablet had drawn initial sponsorship from Comcast, Main Line Health, and Wells Fargo.
Gregory J. Osberg, Inquirer publisher and PMN chief executive officer, told Adweek that the Arnova tablet's French manufacturer, Archos, had agreed to "let the papers keep the subscription revenue and consumer data, which will enable it to study usership." After a beta-test phase with the first 5,000 tablets, PMN hopes to launch the tablet more widely on "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally starts the holiday shopping season.
"Today, we are presenting 5,000 Philadelphians with an opportunity to seize the future," Osberg said at a news conference Monday. "We'll be the first in this country, and we believe around the world, to offer this opportunity to consumers." He called the tablet offer "the most ambitious paid-content initiative ever introduced in the United States."
Osberg said last week that he believed tablets using Google's Android operating system would eventually prove as popular as Android-based smartphones. Google developed the open-source platform in an alliance with handset manufacturers that were hoping to compete with Apple's iPhone, and Android-based phones now outsell the iPhone.
Since Apple launched the iPad in April 2010, it has reported sales of more than 28 million units at prices ranging from about $500 to $800. Osberg said the Arnova tablet's much lower price tag would make it attractive to a wider swath of consumers.
"What we're doing is launching a tier-one tablet - an Android tablet - at tier-two prices," Osberg said.
The Arnova 10 G2 tablet, though not yet sold separately in the United States, is part of a line of digital products sold by retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon.com, Osberg said.
Like the iPad and other tablet computers, it offers high-resolution images and video, an Internet browser and e-mail program, and access to a wide range of apps created by outside developers. The Arnova and other Android tablets also offer access to Flash video - something lacking from current versions of the iPad.
The Android tablet's dimensions are different from an iPad's. The Arnova's screen measures 10.1 inches diagonally compared with the iPad 2's 9.7-inch screen, and it is slightly taller, narrower, and lighter than an iPad. Like the iPad, it features a 1 gigaherz processor.
Overall, the Arnova is 10.6 inches high and 5.9 inches wide, and it weighs 19 ounces. The iPad 2 is 9.5 inches high and 7.3 inches wide, and it weighs 21.6 ounces.
One area in which the Arnova falls short of the iPad is its memory. The least-expensive iPad 2 comes with 16 gigabytes of memory, vs. 4 gigabytes on the Arnova. But unlike the iPad, the Arnova has a USB port that accepts flash drives without a special adapter.