Android tablets. Too little too late?

The photographs of  Chinese iPad clones running Android are filtering their way west and indeed, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to port the operating system onto anything from a flat screen television to a cheap large screen smartphone.  Android seems destined to become the mass market OS for mobile internet devices, and as hardware manufacturers figure out how to junk it up with their own skins, you can be sure to see a plethora of 10″ screens sometime soon. After a month in the Android world on my HTC EVO smartphone, and several months on the genuine iPad, I have to wonder what the mass market appeal of an Android tablet will be once they start shipping in volume later this year.

The significant application for the tablet — the so-called “content consumption” device (consumption is so tubercular in my mind) — is e-readers in my opinion. Sure, you can watch a nice movie or video courtesy of iTunes on the iPad, and doubtlessly Amazon, Netflix, and Doubletwist will be pushing moving picture content onto Android tablets with ease. But in my experience the big application is reading, be it the Kindle app on the iPad or the new magazine formats such as Flipboard and the traditional magazine publishers. So far the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have the lead in iPad formats, and I tend to make a point of refreshing them before hopping onto a plane. Flipboard is a nice enough user experience, integrating links from my Facebook and Twitter network, and it is a good platform for prolific publishers like AllThingsD and others with a need to push their content.

The point of this post is to wonder outloud how publishers will port from the iPad to Android tablets and if the experience will be as compelling as the early iterations on the Apple platform. If I were leading the platform decision at a Conde Nast or Time Inc. I would be very concerned about the production challenges of supporting the two platforms. While Wired may be declaring the Web to be dead, I have to disagree, seeing Android as an extension of the desktop browser/HTML model we’ve lived with for nearly two decades. iPad as a closed example of “splinternet” — yes, I concede that Apple model is a walled garden for developers and consumers, but a short lived one as Android gathers momentum and steam this summer and into the holiday season.

Prediction: next year the dominant launch-first platform will be Android.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

4 thoughts on “Android tablets. Too little too late?”

  1. I don’t think publishers will have that problem with Android tablets, honestly. They created the big-bucks experience for iPad because it is, well, an Apple product. Huge hype, huge appeal to many audiences and a shot at the RIGHT audiences.

    Android tablet adoption will be spearheaded by the geeks, but it will take something more than a $150 box in K-Mart to get any type of public awareness and adoption.

    Verizon is rumored to be working on a Chrome tablet with Motorola that will be offered by end of year. If that and other premium Google devices become common, and offered through major outlets like cell carriers, THEN the publishers will have the quandary of two major platforms to support. Though, if the true Google iPad competitor is a Chrome tablet, they won’t need to develop apps. Web + HTML5 + Flash = golden

  2. re: The significant application for the tablet — the s0-called “content consumption” device (consumption is so tubercular in my mind) — is e-readers in my opinion.

    David, I decided a long time ago to not decide what is significant based on my usage of technology.

    I believe, if nothing else, the first four months of the iPad has pretty much blown apart the “the iPad is primarily a content consumption, not creation, device” theory.

    I could, I promise, show you dozens of examples, but here are two:

    Yes, I’ve read a few dozen books on my iPad, but even I’ve discovered some great ways to use it for “creation.”

  3. Yeah Rex I get it, but sorry, it’s not a writing device per se (sure there is an external keyboard)but never the less, touchscreens have been a consistent failure for text entry since the mid-80s when they first made their appearances on kiosks. A couple fingerpainting apps and all the clever art work in the world doesnt’t get around the fact that human ergonomics and factors engineering mean we need things like keyboard throw to give us tactile feedback. Haptic response mechanisms like some new phones give to indicate the ciompletion of an action are fine — but reality is the mass market is market of consumer couch potatoes who want to point, drag, flip and click.

  4. Some creativity apps like chart creation, photo editing, video editing and web development might work in interesting ways with a gesture-based tablet.

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