Between the hubbub over the Eee Pad Transformer Prime’s locked bootloader and the continuing fervor surrounding Motorola’s locked down models, the ability for end users to access the hardware and software that they’ve purchased is becoming a major theme in the Android world. The level of access is, for some users at least, one of the most important factors in their buying decision for a new smartphone or tablet. A tiny startup called Aura Design aims to shake up the market with a new series of Aura Slate tablets, which not only open up the software, but the hardware as well: in addition to an open bootlader and easily modded Android build, the source code for Android and the hardware dirvers is ade easily available.

Currently Aura Design intends to offer two models of the Aura Slate, the 7-inch Model 726m and the 10-inch 926. Both are labelled as “coming soon” on the company’s small website. The company hasn’t announced pricing or availability for either model, but considering the pricing for some of their other low-end Android tablets, expect the smaller version to be about $130. It won’t be breaking any benchmark records; both models cure a Cortex A9 processor of currently undetermined speed. But the value-add for developers and modders is hard to overstate: Aura Design is already offering Ice Cream Sandwich updates for cheaper tablets, so both should be running Android 4.0 when they ship. Source code for Android and the ARM-based hardware will be distributed at launch.

Aura may be the most brazenly developer-friendly OEM we’ve ever seen. “Mischief encouraged. Hackers welcomed.” declares the banner on top of their site. The hardware they produce isn’t going to be anywhere near the quality of triple-AAA manufacturers – it looks like a collection of Chinese OEM designs with some developer-focused branding. Even so, the company is targeting a growing markets whose needs aren’t really being met at the moment. We’ll be keeping a close eye on Aura Design.

[via Tech Crunch]