The $199 tablet market gets more crowded

Want a $199 tablet? Want something more open than a Kindle Fire? Want it a couple of weeks sooner? Don’t mind a slower CPU to have device portability on your books and more open access to the operating system?

Kobo is betting with its Kobo Vox tablet that the answer to at least one of those questions, for some people, is yes.

At 800 MHz, it’s not as fast as the Kindle Fire. A lot of analysts are comparing it to Barnes & Noble’s Color Nook. The hardware is similar, but it’s being sold as an unlocked tablet, rather than as a color e-reader that happens to be capable of being hacked into a tablet.

But it uses the native Android app store, not a proprietary one. And Kobo promises that when you buy a book from them, you can read the books on “other open readers.” Whatever that means. But they aren’t locking you in to just their tablets and e-readers.

Maybe Kobo’s been like that all along, but now they’ve decided to advertise themselves as being the alternative that’s a little more open.

I hope the strategy works for them. The main reason I don’t have a Kindle on order now is because I don’t want to tie my purchased books to a single vendor’s e-readers. There are any number of reasons one might want to change vendors. Perhaps a vendor goes out of business, or falls a few generations behind the others and doesn’t catch up, or stops providing reliable or cost-competitive hardware. But you’re less likely to switch if you have thousands of dollars’ worth of books that you can’t take with you when you do.

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