The race to the bottom of the tablet market continues, and a high-profile player may be next to lower the bar. DigiTimes' sources in the supply chain claim that PC giant HP is planning to introduce a $99 tablet in time for the back-to-school season. The 7" device will reportedly be manufactured by a Chinese firm and sold at Wal Mart, which already carries a range of sub-$100 tablets from nearly a dozen obscure companies, including Nexbook, iView, Xelio, Ematic, and my personal favorite: Visual Land. HP's name would certainly have more credibility with North American consumers.
According to DigiTimes, the HP tablet will be based on a single-core Atom processor from the Medfield generation. There are no further details on the display, which likely uses a low-res TN panel, or on the operating system, which is almost certainly a recent version of Android.
If the rumored HP tablet makes it to market, it won't be the only sub-$100 option from a major PC brand. Asus' MeMO Pad is down to $99.99 on Amazon, and Wal Mart sells the same tablet for $110. The MeMO combines a 7" 1024x600 display with a Via SoC that features a single ARM Cortex-A9 core and Mali-400 graphics. You also get front- and rear-facing cameras, 802.11n Wi-Fi, a Micro SD slot, and 16GB of storage. All things considered, that's not bad for a Benjamin.
The few really cheap tablets I've used have felt horribly compromised, so I'd recommend springing for something like Google's Nexus 7, which is also manufactured by Asus. The original should deliver a much better experience, and its high-PPI replacement looks even better. The only thing missing from Google's entry-level offering is a Micro SD slot—a feature that's pretty much ubiquitious on cheaper Chinese tablets.