Samsung has yet to release Google's latest Galaxy Nexus with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to the public. However, the Chinese have beat them to releasing a consumer-oriented device running Ice Cream Sandwich. And at US$ 99, who can beat that price?

Google's Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" brings together the formerly-divergent smartphone and tablet forks of the Android platform. Initially launched through Google's flagship Galaxy Nexus last October, manufacturers are now racing to produce their own generic and branded devices running ICS. Chinese company Ainol is ahead of everyone else with a sub-US$ 100 device that won't disappoint in terms of features.

Cheap But Capable

Ainol's Novo7 tablet computer runs on a single-core 1 GHz MIPS-based XBurst CPU with Vivante GC860 GPU, rear- and front-facing cameras, 3D-graphics capability, high-definition 1080p video recording and HDMI output for connecting to high-definition TV sets. While most other Android tablets within this price level come with resistive touchscreens and the smartphone-optimized Android 2.x, the Ainol Novo7 comes with a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen capable of multi-touch, and runs the latest version of Android optimized to run both on smartphones and tablets.

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Running on the MIPS platform, the Ainol Novo7 is an Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich tablet that sells for under US$ 100

Android head, Google Senior VP for mobile Andy Rubin, has expressed optimism for inexpensive tablets running the company's latest release.

I'm thrilled to see the entrance of MIPS-based Android 4.0 tablets into the market. Low cost, high performance tablets are a big win for mobile consumers and a strong illustration of how Android's openness drives innovation and competition for the benefit of consumers around the world."

The use of the MIPS architecture is also interesting, given that most Android tablets to date run on the ARM architecture. However, Google has ported Android to various platforms for better support among manufacturers and developers. It may be noted that Google is working to port Android to a variety of platforms, including ARM, MIPS and Intel x86. MIPS dominates the embedded device market, and the company is likewise confident that the platform can have a big presence in the tablet and smartphone market.

Worldwide Release Soon?

The tablet is currently available for retail in China, although the manufacturer is trying to work out deals with international brands like Leader International and OMG Electronics for possible branding and distribution in the U.S. and elsewhere. has listed the device for US$ 99 plus US$ 60 international shipping, but the site says the tablet has sold out.

MIPS says 8- and 9-inch variants are in the works, and will be availalbe in the next couple of months. Google has already certified the tablet for use with apps like Gmail, Maps, Google Music and Google Talk. But as Android Market doesn't currently work in China, the tablet currently doesn't support downloading of apps from Google's own marketplace. Users can still install from third-party sources, though, such as Amazon AppStore, as well as directly through .apk packages.

At 5 million units sold by year-end, the US$ 199.99 Amazon's Kindle Fire is reportedly going to take 50% share of the Android tablet by 2012. But will cheaper and more capable devices like the Novo7 gain enough traction to beat Amazon to the punch?