One of Android's main draws is the fact that it is a supposedly "open" OS, allowing free development of things like custom ROMs and an approval-free Market. However, between locked bootloaders, which seriously inhibit custom software installation, and carriers taking certain applications out of the market on their phones, much of this freedom often lost by the time a device makes it into the hands of consumers.
Still, there are some manufacturers who promote free development around their devices. One such company is Aura Design, whose own website boasts, "Mischief encouraged, Hackers welcomed." They are currently a very small startup, but already have plans to release two new Android tablets under the Aura Slate brand.
Although we will obviously be focusing on the smaller of the two devices, both their 10-inch and 7-inch tablets appear to have the same specifications, or at least share a development board. All we know for sure, though, is that the tablets will have Gorilla Glass displays and ARM Cortex A9 processors with a clock speed of "800MHz to 1GHz."
While the hardware is likely just a rebranding of a budget OEM's design, the significant thing about the Aura Slate is software. Aura Designs will be shipping their tablets with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and source code for the both the software and hardware will be available at launch.
The 7-inch Aura Slate Model 726B Development tablet is already available on the company's website for $139, so it follows that the updated Model 726M would sell for about the same price. It won't be bringing you the consumer experience of a Kindle Fire, but for developers who need an open source reference device that always has the latest software, or if you just want something affordable to tinker with, it seems like a perfect fit.[Aura Designs via TechCrunch]