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Tribune’s Reported Android Tablet Plan A Head-Scratcher

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It’s not clear why a publishing company like Tribune would think it has a chance to build an iPad competitor when companies that live and breathe consumer electronics have been having so much trouble accomplishing that themselves. But for some reason Tribune executives are working on a free or low-cost Android tablet that would be distributed along with subscriptions to its newspapers, according to a report.

CNN wrote that the tablet is more of a concept than an actual product at this point, but it’s believed to be a serious project. The idea would be to partner with a wireless carrier on a data plan and try to court new subscribers or re-up existing subscribers by giving away the tablet. “If it turns out to be a failure, it’ll be a fantastically interesting failure,” one anonymous source told CNN.

It will also be a colossal waste of money for a company trying to emerge from bankruptcy. Crowd-pleasing tablet design has really only been nailed by one company, and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) used much of what it learned from the iPhone in creating the iPad. Other Android competitors simply haven’t been able to match the iPad the way they were able to match the iPhone, and even though this is still a brand-new market it’s hard to imagine that a media company has the design knowledge and insight to make a dent in the tablet market.

Tribune owns several major U.S. newspapers, such as its namesake in Chicago and the Los Angeles Times. It’s currently in bankruptcy court, and has been most notable over the past couple of years for its boorish corporate culture, which led to the demise of former CEO Randy Michaels and the rise of current CEO Eddy Hartenstein, who is said to be the driving force behind the tablet. Philadelphia Media Network is trying a similar idea to get more people interested in the Inquirer and the Daily News, according to CNN’s report.

If a media company manages to be the first to convince people to actually use an Android tablet, then an entire consumer electronics industry should hang its head in shame. Luckily for them, this is never going to happen, as the chances of getting the public to carry around multiple tablets–one for the local news and one that does everything else about 10,000 times better than the local news tablet–are about as good as the Chicago Cubs, formerly owned by the Tribune, have winning of the World Series this year.

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