CNN reports that newspaper and broadcast company Tribune wants to build a tablet for subscribers to access properties like the Los Angeles Times and The Baltimore Sun. The tablet will be based on Android and offered for free or at a heavily subsidized price.
Tribune hasn't made a lot of great decisions in the past couple of years, and this smells like another bad one. Some of the very customers that would be interested in Tribune's potential hardware offering likely have a tablet already, and the odds are good that the tablet they have is an iPad. Does Tribune expect people to carry around two tablets, one for reading a Tribune paper and one for everything else? Or maybe the Tribune tablet will just be a branded Android tablet... but last time I looked those aren't selling too well. By the way, how is the RIM PlayBook doing? Or the Crunchpad? Enjoying those Microsoft tablets?
Distributing a newspaper through the App Store may not be a palatable option for publishers because of the high toll Apple takes, but trying to produce your own hardware when so many others have failed seems a heck of a lot riskier. I think competition is great, and Apple needs some. But the grim reality is that, so far at least, no one has produced a tablet that matches the experience and price of the iPad.
We've seen magazines and newspapers try to meet the digital challenge a number of ways. The New York Times lost a lot of subscribers when it put up a pay-wall, but it has had some modest success by still letting non-subscribers get access to limited amounts of news. The Daily from News Corp. appears to be a failure so far, but there is still a lot of room to experiment with what works and what doesn't. And note that all of those experiments are running on the iPad, not dedicated, poorly-selling hardware.
I'd put Tribune building its own tablet in the latter category, but maybe I'm short sighted and naive. What do you think about the Tribune plan?