No matter which way you cut it, the Android-based Wikipad gaming tablet -- dubbed as much despite not having any connection to Wikipedia -- is unusually expensive. As a 10.1-inch Android tablet, it's comparably priced with the leaders of the market (of the Apple and Samsung variety). The obvious problem comparatively with the big dogs: visibility. What is Wikipad, anyway? And who made it?
"This is our first product into the market," consummate salesman and Wikipad CEO James Bower told us in an interview earlier this week -- yes, the company's name is shared with its first product. "We've self-funded the whole concept to this point with a couple of us founders. No VC money or anything," he said (the company did, however, just close its first round of venture capital funding for marketing costs, post-development). Bower's company took the idea of an Android-based gaming tablet with a proprietary, physical (and removable) gamepad from concept to reality in the last year, first revealing the tablet at CES 2012. "We've been able to accomplish a lot very efficiently and very effectively to this point," Bower said, in reference to the approximately 80 people who created the device.
That said, despite our positive hands-on time with the Wikipad (even in its prototype state), $500 is a heck of a lot of money to plunk down on an unproven device from an unproven company. The argument gets harder when you remember Sony's PlayStation Vita -- an arguably much nicer device with a far larger library of gaming content that costs half the Wikipad's price at $249.99. Bower doesn't see the logic in this argument. "It's double the price, but it's also double the size," he pointed out. "If you buy a tablet that's seven inches, you can get a $199 tablet -- it's called a Google Nexus or a Kindle Fire. If you're gonna get a full 10-inch tablet, a tablet to this quality, you're gonna spend $499 to $749 ... if we were talking about a 7-inch device or a 5-inch device, and we were at this price point, then it'd be a different story." Admittedly, the tablet -- as a standalone device -- isn't too shabby. But will it woo consumers away from the likes of Apple and Samsung? Bower hopes as much, but we're not so sure.
Wikipad hands-onSee all photos
"What we like to say is, 'If you're gonna spend $249 to get your Vita, and you're gonna spend $499 on an iPad, why don't you just spend $499 and get the Wikipad? That way you can have the best of both worlds,'" he argued. Ideally, Bower wants his gaming tablet to cross over between students, gamers, and businesspeople. But with GameStop partnering with Wikipad for pre-orders, the company's messaging certainly seems aimed at the gamer crowd -- the extremely fickle, price-averse gaming crowd. Sure, the tablet will also be available at "all the usual suspects," Bower said, but partnering with the largest video game retailer in the United States is certainly making a statement.
Wikipad -- the company -- isn't public, so Bower wouldn't share sales projections for this holiday, but he did say, "We don't have to sell but tens of thousands to do extremely well." And he also pointed out that, "with what we have in pre-sales and pre-orders, we're already gonna be profitable this year." From there? "It's all about going into next year, and the product development and the marketing, and building the brand from there," Bower said. "It's up to us to craft the message correctly and get everybody excited about this device."
Following next month's launch of the Wikipad, the company is planning to release a television dongle that'll enable second-screen streaming from the tablet directly to TV screens -- for existing TVs with WiFi Direct, it'll connect and function right out of the box. "But if you're looking at pure interaction and minimal latency for gameplay, that's where you're gonna need our accessory to do that," Bower said. Always a salesman.