The questions every Android tablet maker should be asking

The Android tablet problem, nicely summarized by one review’s conclusion

From Ars Technica’s review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which exemplifies the softball “please keep sending us gadgets” review so prevalent recently:

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 easily has the best hardware of any Android tablet on the market today. Samsung has really outdone itself—the Tab 10.1’s svelte profile and impressively light weight (it weighs less than an iPad and has more RAM) are sure to attract the attention of consumers.

Really? Will a lot of customers notice the 2% thickness difference or the 6% weight savings over an iPad 2? I guess it must be the RAM they’re clamoring for, since that’s a hotly debated spec among iPad buyers.

Hardware excellence isn’t the only measure of a good tablet, however; software is arguably just as important—if not more so—on such a personal device.

Google has moved Honeycomb forward with Android 3.1 and has thankfully fixed the stability problems, but that’s still not enough. Honeycomb’s barren third-party application landscape really hobbles the Tab 10.1 and other Android tablets.

Translation: Android tablets have managed to copy the iPad’s hardware well enough — the easy part — but have failed to provide good software and significant third-party app choice — the hard part.


Not only is the review skewered in this fashion but the essay also brings up questions that need to be answered by any tablet maker:

1) Why would a significant number of buyers choose this instead of an iPad?

2) What will cause enough people to buy this that developers will beat down the door to make great apps for it?

The mass markets are not buying these because of the hardware spec – only geeks care about those. The mass market cares about what it does, how efficiently it does it and if it will improve things.

Looks are nice. Industrial design is an important part of a successful product. But people want to do things with the tablet and simply having a large screen or a light weight does not cut it.

Apple was able to make the iPhone a success because out of the box Apple had created a software environment that enhanced people’s lives. Apple but a lot of hard work into that software that was the OS and into its original apps.

People bought because of the enhancement the software provided to the hardware. The hardware by itself would not have sufficed. With that popularity, Apple was able to leverage a huge developer response.

Not so with Android tablets nor, so far, with Windows. Heck, MS has been rumored to be paying developers to create software.

The geek market has very little idea of what will sell in the mass market. Apple’s perhaps greatest impact has been on moving technology out of the geek market and into the mass market in ways that enhance people’s lives.

Too many hardware and software makers seem to feel that if they can get the geek market to adopt the tech, then it will naturally flow to the mass market. See Linux for why this does not necessarily follow.

Until more companies understand how to make this transition, and how to provide livelihoods for the very developers the hardware requires,  Apple will continue to eat them alive.