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Oracle introduces a DIY tablet, the DukePad

A tablet that you actually assemble yourself? For many hardware geeks, this could be a dream come true. Unfortunately, the lack of a stable build of Android really holds this idea back.
September 27, 2013
Oracle Dukepad

That ultra-bulky monstrosity that you see above is Oracle’s first attempt at a tablet, known as the DukePad.

Before you start criticizing the design and bulk, it’s important to know exactly what the DukePad is all about. Instead of a standard consumer device, the DukePad is completely open-source, and Oracle currently only provides the “blueprints” necessary to get the device up and running. That means you have to find all your own parts.

Interested in the idea, but looking for a “simpler” route? Oracle is working with suppliers to eventually offer a “kit” that includes everything you need to built a DukePad, all in one place.

Who would want a self-assembled tablet?

Joe Average obviously doesn’t want a DukePad, so who’s this thing aimed at exactly? Essentially, the DukePad is for the same crowd that puts together custom PC rigs or messes around with custom electronic boards (raises hand).

At the heart of the tablet is a Raspberry Pi, the tiny ARM-powered computer that seems to have an infinite number of unique uses. As for the OS, Oracle is promoting Raspbian Linux, with a special interface built using Java SE 8.

In its current Raspberry Pi-powered form, Oracle’s DukePad design will help you put together a 10-inch touchscreen tablet with 16GB storage, 512MB RAM, Wi-Fi and an embedded camera. The total cost involved here is said to be about $350.

A tablet that is truly yours at every level.

The DukePad isn’t going to compete with Android tablets, or even Windows tablets or the iPad. It is a decisively niche device, but that doesn’t make it any less cool.

While Oracle is promoting Raspbian Linux with its own Java SE 8 interface, the Raspberry Pi board underneath is very flexible. Flexible enough for Android? While technically yes, the only available build for Raspberry Pi is a VERY slow running Android 2.3 ROM.  You can however run several different types of Linux, and even Firefox OS.

Unfortunately, the DukePad is a really cool concept, but a high price and limited functionality really make it nothing more than an expensive tinkering toy. Here’s to hoping that other manufacturers pick up on this same idea, but instead provide us a with a motherboard that has a bit more meat to it. Out of the box Android Jelly Bean compatibility would be awesome, too.

How about it, would you pay $300-$400 for a custom tablet, providing it could run Android with at least reasonably solid performance? Or do you think that the idea of custom tablet kits is something that’s just too impractical?