It’s not a secret that Google has been slow in seizing the surge in the tablet market. We’re nearly midway through the year, and the only real Android iPad competitor is still the Motorola Xoom (though there are still some high hopes for Q3!). With Google’s IO developer conference starting yesterday in San Francisco, they’ve essentially laid down their tablet strategy for the next year, and it almost appears that they’re scared. Damn scared.
Google introduced a plethora of features for both Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich (their next version of the Android OS) aimed specifically at developers. Of the most interest is their Accessory Development Kit (ADK) which hopes to boost the number of Android compatible peripherals, much like Apple’s Made for iPhone label. They also announced a partnership with both hardware makers and US wireless carriers to standardize Android updates and mitigate device fragmentation. This is why I see these tactics as a feared response from Google.
Firstly, I think Google is finally coming to terms with the lacklustre support from hardware makers and wireless carriers in standardizing Android. Afterall, it simply isn’t in either party’s monetary interest to keep users stuck on the same device for more than 1.5 years. Such as, Google has to turn to its tried and true army of developers to help improve the connectivity of their devices with other everyday objects. Interestingly enough, though, with Android’s standardization towards Micro-USB, one would think that an ADK would be unnecessary. Unfortunately, with the myriad physical hardware configuration for Android, it nearly makes it impossible to create an attachable device that would fit all phones or tablets. Also, while Near Field Communications (NFC) looks like it will be a standard going forward, it would be foolhardy to think that all devices will come standard with it for many years to come. The ADK is a great step forward in that direction, and as long as it doesn’t require a physical connection for it to work properly, it should go a long way.
Google’s partnership with carriers and hardware manufacturers is finally a stern admittance that device fragmentation is a real problem, especially in the emerging tablet space (especially with tablets out there still running Android Gingerbread). While they admit that they’ll be tackling the issue “head-on”, it also appears that no party is willing to step up with a firm plan of attack. Regardless of the final outcome, it does appear that Google has admitted that Apple’s lock-step update model is superior to their free-for-all approach.
As the Year of the Tablet keeps rolling along, it would be nice to see how the Blackberry Playbook and HP/Palm’s tablets will shape up and respond to both Google and Apple. It would be even more interesting to see what Apple has up its sleeves for WWDC in only a few weeks. But until then, more speculations and rumours.
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