Tribune creating its own tablet device: Good or bad idea?

U.S. media company Tribune Co. is developing a touchscreen tablet device that it will offer to newspaper subscribers, CNN reported today.

The tablet will likely run on a version of Google’s Android operating system and feature software for the owner’s hometown newspaper, current and former Tribune employees told CNN. The Chicago-based Tribune owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, and more, as well as 23 television stations.

Tribune is expected to offer the tablet for free or at a small cost to people who sign up for extended subscriptions of one of its newspapers.

But is it a good idea for publishers to invest the time and money in developing their own gadgets, or would it be put to better use if they spent it on presenting their content well across all the devices already out there?

Many are already saying it’s a bad idea.

“Hardware is hard. It’s hard to develop, it’s hard to design, it’s hard to find partners, it’s hard to source parts, it’s hard to build, it’s hard to get working, it’s hard to keep costs down and it’s extraordinarily hard at the end of that process to produce something popular,” Wired pointed out. “Very few people need a newspaper subscription, and even fewer want an off-brand Android tablet.”

Tribune’s core business – its news content – has been hurting lately, as the company has laid off employees across its newspapers. However, mediabistro has a different point of view, pointing out that media companies are getting a raw deal when they sell content on the iPad, and giving away a digital device would save on printing costs.

Image: Chicago Tribune’s iPad app

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