Android faces more scrutiny as new devices from Samsung and Toshiba appear

by Kristen Nicole

Android devices may have taken over the mobile market, but the software running on these Android-powered smartphones and tablets is getting several industry CEOs worked up. It’s the apps developed for Android devices that have become a major topic of discussion for Motorola (MMI) CEO Sanjay Jha, who recently attributed phone performance issues to apps and Android’s open installation process, though the comment was later “cleaned up.” Meanwhile, the lack of apps on Windows Phone 7 has been called out in a Business Insider article as something Nokia (NOK) CEO Stephen Elop should pay more attention to, after Elop’s promise to deliver a superior OS seemingly disregards the influence of mobile apps on consumers’ device preferences.

Indeed, mobile apps have become central to Android’s OS success, making supporting devices more comparable to the iPhone while also encompassing an ecosystem eager to serve consumers’ every need. The same Business Insider article goes on to blast Nokia for its inability to attract developer support even in its own Nordic region, noting local app makers’ allegiance to iOS and Android. Apps have in turn become a blessing and a curse for Google (GOOG), carrying malware through Android’s open system and sometimes leaking consumer data.

That leaves Google between a rock and a hard place, now that Android has garnered the support of dozens of devices from most major manufacturers in order to spread the mobile OS across the globe. Java owner Oracle (ORCL) feels entitled to Android’s success, claiming 50 percent of revenues for searches performed on Android devices. Pundits think Oracle may have some leverage in this high profile case, as Google’s use of Java in the Android code allegedly infringes on related patents. While Google is defensive about this claim, the debacle stresses the fact that any major re-writes to Android code would affect millions of device owners worldwide.

It’s certainly something to consider as Google moves forward with Android renditions for the tablet market, currently dominated by Apple’s (AAPL) iPad (already in its second generation). Samsung (005930.KS) and Toshiba (TOSBF.PK) are both looking to the newest version of Android Honeycomb, with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 having hit the market. Toshiba’s Thrive tablet lineup will set itself apart with bright colors and a focus on usability. But ongoing issues with Android Honeycomb, and weaker sales than the iPad have led Dell (DELL) to try its hand in the market outside the U.S. The upcoming Dell Streak Pro will debut in China, where Dell feels the tablet market is more mature and rapidly growing, leaving a U.S. launch for later in the year.