Some interesting news from Asia this past week as Google officially unveiled their latest version of Android called Ice Cream Sandwich and their new flagship phone from Samsung called the Galaxy Nexus. It’s supposed to bridge the gap between a purely phone based OS (Gingerbread) and one designed strictly for tablets (Honeycomb), and on the surface, it all seems hunky-dory. But wait…something’s missing in this equation.
If the OS is really supposed to play nice with both the phone and the tablet, where’s the tablet to coincide with the announcement? In fact, I’ve had trouble finding even a simple tablet screenshot for Ice Cream Sandwich during the press event. The only screenshots I’ve managed to find were from ThisIsMyNext.com who ran the Android emulator tool.
The big question, of course, is why the disparagement for tablets in this case? Here are a couple of theories.
Tablet Makers Aren’t Ready or Willing Yet
Without owning the entire supply chain, Google has to rely on their hardware partners to invest in the next iteration of devices. Investment is the key in this case, and it’s a substantial investment in R&D and in manufacturing. At the end of the day, hardware makers are businesses too and they need to profit from selling these devices and it doesn’t seem like they’re selling a whole of them to make it worth their while.
And while a lot of Android tablets are being sold, the profit is generally split across 3 or 4 major makers, making each one earning less individually than the market seems to make it appear. What’s the difference between tablets and phones in this case? Well, with little to no ISP subsidies for tablets, the higher cost for a tablet makes it hard for consumers to jump on board en masse. Little wonder that hardware makers just aren’t as keen to jump in bed with Google on the tablet front.
Google Isn’t Ready or Willing Yet
Google is notorious for their hands-off approach when it comes to Android hardware partners. In fact, even with their Motorola acquisition earlier this year, they were explicit in stating that they will not interfere with the hardware side of the business. Furthermore, I’ve heard through the grapevine (and even in some personal experience dealing with other parts of the big G) that their support for third parties is simply atrocious. It almost feels as if Android is the “If we build it, they will come…because we’re not Apple nor Microsoft” and stinks high of hubris. This lack of commitment is simply folly and will be the eventual failure of Android. While it’s unnecessary to control the user experience from start to finish (like Apple does), it is necessary to control enough of it so that, at the bare minimum, the hardware and software function well enough together and that some standards are met. Even Microsoft understands that, and they’re the pinnacle of selling ‘just software’.
It’s pretty safe to say that Google is pretty entrenched in mobile phone OSes. So you’ve got to wonder…how committed is Google to the tablet space? Is it something they’re doing because they simply ‘have to’? Or is there something missing? Comment to your heart’s delight and let us know.
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