Three months after Wikipad went radio silent, having failed to meet its promised GameStop launch, the company building the Android tablet with the detachable gaming controller is ready to try once more. "We're respawning," says Fraser Townley, the company's president of sales. Only there's a news twist: Instead of the 10-inch model that the firm had promised last year, Wikipad now plans to sell a 7-inch model for $249.99, half the price of the original.
An embarrassing failureWhat happened to the 10-inch Wikipad? What's the catch? Apparently, there was a mechanical problem with the first batch of tablets so serious that the company needed to retool... and so embarrassing that Townley didn't want to discuss it over the phone. "What was identified has absolutely, totally, 100 percent been ironed out," he assures us. By the time Wikipad could order a new batch, though, the team ran into a new issue: its display manufacturer decided to stop making the 10-inch LCD panel it needed to build the product. Faced with more delays and a growing realization that tablets were getting cheaper and the 7-inch screen size was coming into vogue, Wikipad decided to abandon its plans to build a premium 10-inch tablet... for now, anyhow.
The result: a 7-inch tablet that (Wikipad claims) is practically identical to the original. It's got the same Tegra 3 chip inside, with 1GB of DDR3 RAM. The 7-inch IPS display still has the same 1280 x 800 resolution, which better matches the 7-inch screen size anyhow. There's still going to be Android 4.1 on board, a full compliment of sensors, dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a healthy array of miniature ports.
The industrial design is the same, right down to the clever rear lip that lets you hold the tablet by a corner. And perhaps best of all, assuming the product is now solid, is that the tablet comes with the same set of full-size detachable gaming controls for just $249 in total. "It's exactly the same product, only half the price and three inches off the screen," says Townley. And with 16GB of storage, an estimated 8-hour battery life, and about the same weight and size, it's more than competitive with Google's Nexus 7... on paper, anyhow. Wikipad hopes to ship it this spring.
How did Wikipad bring down the price that much? "I'm a bully," he laughs. He insists that Wikipad hasn't cut corners when it comes to quality.
The question, of course, is whether you can trust Wikipad with your money again, or at all. We can't answer that, but we can tell you what Townley said in the company's defense when we asked him about it.
He told us that partners like Nvidia, Sony, and GameStop understood the company's predicament. "All of the partners helping us to bring it to market understood and accepted it... at the end of the day, they didn't want to see the product fail," he said.
He also assured us that the company has real orders once again. "It will be on the market in the spring. We have purchase orders; we have commitments from all the major retailers." he claimed.
"Given those circumstances, we had no choice."
He admitted that the company failed in the first round. "I've been as open and honest as I can be in this environment... we have to build that trust back up."
But he believes that Wikipad had no choice, and that we'll be pleased with what the company has done. "We could have put the product on the market and failed permanently… or duked it out and succeeded. Given those circumstances, we had no choice. We were not going to put a product on the market that fails mechanically."
"When I show you, you will know that we did the right thing as a company," says Townley.
Here's hoping that the third time's the charm.