We’ve seen tablets claiming to be “$100” before, but this one might actually make good on that promise. Rockchip, an increasingly notable Chinese chip manufacturer, was the first to show off Ice Cream Sandwich running on tablet hardware way back in November. Now TabTimes reports that the company’s hardware will be powering dozens of tablets at the Consumer Electronics Show,  including at least one that’s slated for a rock-bottom MSRP of $100.

“We think we will have between 30 and 40 tablets at Vegas,” said Rockchip’s Vice President Chen Feng. “The global environment is right for our Android 4.0 product, and as a company, we are in precisely the right position to play a major role in satisfying a healthy portion of that demand.” A spokeswoman said that at least one 7-inch tablet will be priced somewhere between $95 and $125, with a 10-inch model set for $150-200. Specific OEMs were not mentioned, though she said that prices will vary.

Since Ice Cream Sandwich is the first version of Android to be both built for a tablet interface and open source, a flood of low-cost tablets has been expected for months. Since the source code for Android 3.0 Honeycomb was not available (Google published it along with ICS in November) most Chinese tablets thus far have used 2.2 Froyo or 2.3 Gingerbread, without official access to Google’s proprietary apps or the Android Market.

Ever since the previously $500 HP TouchPad went on sale for just $100, there’s been an increased interest in cheap tablets. The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet at $200 and $250 respectively sold millions of units over the holidays, even though they both run customized versions of Gingerbread. With entry-level hardware running a true tablet OS, expect low-cost Ice Cream Sandwich tablets to make a big impact in 2012.

Be sure to check Android Community’s CES 2012 portal for continuing coverage.


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