Toshiba’s 7-inch Thrive on sale, but not at the right price

Toshiba’s 7-inch tablet is already available for purchase if you know where to look. This smaller edition of the 10-inch Toshiba Thrive was expected to launch in early December, but Toshiba hasn’t officially announced plans yet. However, at least one hardware reseller is offering the shrunken slate for $450 to business customers.

Engadget (s aol) was tipped by a reader who Googled (s goog) the Toshiba Thrive’s part number; the search results pointed to ACOS, which offers limited information and says to “call for stock.” No technical specifications are offered by the reseller; however, Toshiba has already shared what hardware to expect in the smaller Thrive tablet:

  • 1 GHz Nvidia(s nvda) Tegra 2 processor
  • Options for 16 or 32 GB of internal storage
  • Google Android Honeycomb,(s goog) version 3.2
  • 1280 x 720 resolution display
  • Dimensions of 7.44″ x 5.04″ x 0.48″
  • Front- and rear-facing cameras

My expectation is that Toshiba’s officially recommended price for the smaller Thrive tablet is far lower than what ACOS is selling it for. Logic dictates it has to be: The 10-inch Toshiba Thrive starts at $379 for an 8 GB model. Based on that, I could see Toshiba offer the 7-inch Thrive for $299 or so. Aside from competing against its big brother, the 7-inch Thrive joins several others in the small-slate market.

The HTC Flyer, a comparable Wi-Fi tablet being readied ready for the Honeycomb software update, costs $399, as does Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus. These no-contract prices are all comparable, but show a significant premium to watered-down tablets build on Android.

Specifically, I’m thinking about the $199 Amazon Kindle Fire(s amzn) and $249 Barnes & Noble(s bks) Nook Tablet. Heck, you could include last year’s Nook Color at $199 too. All three of these products are essentially media tablets that excel at viewing digital content: movies, TV shows, e-books, magazines and even the web. But all three also run a limited subset of popular Android apps and can even be tweaked to run as native Android tablets.

How the similar Thrive — not to mention the Galaxy Tab and Flyer — will justify more than double of a price tag is an open question at this point. Over the long haul, my expectation is that none of these will, meaning they’ll either sell very few units going forward, slowly die off, or see some price reductions in the coming months.