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Google tablet must consolidate efforts to compete with iPad

by Kristen Nicole

While Android tablets are expected to exceed iPad sales by 2016, Google’s mobile camp still has a long road ahead. One way Google hopes to expedite its tablet efforts is to release one of its own. The self-promoted device strategy worked with smartphones, as the G1 introduced Android to the world. A similar path to success is expected for tablets, but it seems the iPad is still far ahead of the competition.

With news of Google’s plans to create its own tablet, the company is hoping to even out the odds a bit, as Appolicious Advisor Phil Hornshaw pointed out earlier. The search giant will likely leverage Samsung or Asus (what about Motorola?) to manufacturer the Google tablet. But it will take more than just another tablet to tip the scales in Android’s favor, as this mobile OS still struggles with fragmented version rollouts and an ecosystem that’s still pulling itself together.

A Google tablet won’t fix Android fragmentation

Android’s tablet market has already seen a slew of releases from various OEMs like Samsung and even Dell. But as Google seeks the best fit for tablet-ready software, including Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich, manufacturers and developers alike are faced with a dizzying infrastructure laced with optimization requirements across versions and devices. It’s a crowded market for Android devices in general, and throwing more tablets on the pile won’t necessarily solve the issue.

A possible benefit for Google driving its own tablet efforts is that it could focus its hardware and software initiatives into a single device. Google knows what it wants from Android, and it may have to release its own product to prove that point.

This semblance of market consolidation is something I’ve mentioned time and again, and though Google often denies any goals around hard-lined compression (i.e. not taking full advantage of its Motorola acquisition to develop its own line of products), the real story seems to be unfolding in a different way. A Google tablet, for example, would represent a necessary aspect of a company that should have better control of its own operating system.

Google’s opportunity to compete with the iPad

And this is where Google’s extended ecosystem also contributes to their market consolidation, especially under the leadership of re-instated CEO Larry Page. He’s already trimmed the fat on the experimental projects like Knol and Wave that Google’s launched over the years, compacting the company initiatives under a more unified motif. Search, social and mobile are key drivers for Google, and they all come together under Android’s hood.

The battle for the tablet market transcends the devices themselves and spills into the extended marketplace, where the iPad has iTunes, iBooks and iCloud. Google’s pooling its efforts around the re-branded Play Store, with Google+ and Google Docs playing their own roles. Google is also rumored to be working on a cloud storage and file-sharing system called GDrive, which would also require mobile access and Android integration in the long run.

Details on Google’s tablet remain sparse, and there’s no telling how much Apple should worry over its iPad’s market position. But this is Google’s grand opportunity to offer a true competitor to the iPad, combining a device with surrounding services that appeal to consumers operationally as well as on price. This has been Android’s winning combination for the smartphone market, and could impact the tablet sector as well.