Best Buy is getting ready to bulk up its tablet offerings with new products from Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard, echoing a trend seen a few years back with Netbooks.
Toshiba's Thrive tablet is the latest tablet listed as "coming soon" on Best Buy's site and appears next to HP's TouchPad (see graphic below), which is also due soon.
Though Best Buy has yet to list prices, the TouchPad has reportedly been listed at other retailers for $599 for a 32GB Wi-Fi version, while Toshiba's Wi-Fi tablet has been listed for $449, according to a report at Netbooknews.
HP's TouchPad is based on the webOS and sports a 9.7-inch screen, a dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and front and back cameras. Toshiba's offering runs Google's "Honeycomb" Android 3.0 operating system and comes with a dual-core 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, a 10.1-inch display, front and rear cameras, an SD card reader, and HDMI and USB 2.0 ports.
The nation's largest consumer electronics retailer is scrambling to accommodate the surge of tablets by setting aside dedicated tablet-only areas in its stores. A strategy similar to its response to the burgeoning Netbook market a few years back.
In 2008, the tiny Asus Eee PC--the original Netbook--initially appeared at Best Buy as little more than an laptop oddity, relegated to isolated corners at its stores. That changed dramatically in 2009 and 2010 as HP, Dell, Acer, Gateway, and Toshiba jumped into the Netbook fray. Best Buy eventually dedicated relatively large tracts of shelf space for Netbooks (though that trend is seeing a reversal of sorts now, as tablets encroach upon the Netbook market).
But tablets may present a marketing challenge for Best Buy. While Netbooks were a relatively easy sell--essentially, a smaller, lighter, cheaper laptop--the utility of tablets isn't always easy to explain because they occupy the middle ground between two clearly defined markets, the smartphone and the laptop. This has resulted, so far, in a "confusing shopping experience" in some cases, as described by analysts at DisplaySearch.