Google Nexus 7The Verge is carrying what it considers a mostly credible rumor that Google is preparing a low-end $99 Nexus tablet for release by the end of the year. Among the company’s rumored manufacturing partners is Quanta, known for putting together OLPC’s XO-1 and XO-1.5 budget notebooks. The Verge discusses the possible hardware configurations to be found in such a device, which is interesting enough but not really relevant here.

We’ve already seen plenty of cheap Chinese tablets that have mostly proven the worthlessness of cheap Chinese tablets, but is the time right yet for a major name brand to come out with one? At that price, it might be little more than an oversized smartphone. But if Google is able to produce a reasonably snappy tablet at that price, what might it mean for e-reading?

E Ink is widely considered kinder on the eyes for long-term book reading, but the drawback of E Ink devices is that they aren’t much good for doing anything else. Tablets can read e-books reasonably well, but can also display magazines, the Web and media in color, giving people more of a reason to get one. And a reputably-manufactured tablet that breaks the two-digit barrier could put a lot more of those devices in people’s hands—giving them a lot more possibilities for experimenting with e-reading.

I’ll certainly be interested to see how this potential budget tablet resolution pans out.

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