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Apple trawling networks for tablet subsidies?

Can it get Microsoft to pay for the iSlate?

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Reports abound that Apple is seeking subsidies to keep the cost of the iSlate down, in stark contrast to the way the iPhone was launched.

Apple will be giving Bing top billing on the iSlate*, according to "people familiar with the matter". This would presumably be in return for some Redmond dollars, which can be added to subsidy Cupertino is reportedly negotiating with network operators, all in the interests of getting the price of the iSlate down.

When Apple launched the iPhone, it decided to go it alone, believing that punters would pay top dollar for the Apple product. It is one of the few mistakes Steve Jobs made - that strategy had to be abandoned and operators now routinely give away iPhones in exchange for blood-signed deals. It seems Apple isn't going to make the same mistake with the iSlate when it launches next week.

The Guardian tells us that the lads from Cupertino are doing the rounds of mobile operators, looking to get a decent subsidy for the product, though the paper isn't able to provide any evidence.

BusinessWeek, meanwhile, has been listening to "two people familiar with the matter" who reckon Google won't find space on the iSlate thanks to Cupertino's increasing rivalry with the chocolate factory. Given Microsoft's willingness to bribe people to switch to Bing, it makes sense for Redmond to tip Apple a few quid for the recommendation.

If you strip away the subsidy from an iPhone (3GS, 32GB) then it comes in around £800 - which isn't short of the £816 Apple is asking for its basic MacBook. The iSlate is going to have to be in the same sort of bracket, and thus in need of any subsidy it can get to keep the price somewhere sensible.

* Or iPad, or Newton II, or whatever they've decided to call the thing.

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