Will Android ever succeed in the tablet market?
It rules the smartphone market, but several factors prevent Android from going mainstream in the tablet market.
It is pretty clear that Android is the market leader in mobile operating systems when it comes to smartphones. A recent report from Gartner suggests that Android owns as much as 52.5 percent of the growing worldwide smartphone market, followed by Symbian at 16.9 percent and Apple’s iOS at 15.0 percent.
On top of that, its momentum seems unstoppable. Even with Apple’s law suits and the entry of Nokia’s Windows Phones
, there is no stopping Android’s march to the peak of the smartphone mountain.
The same, however, cannot be said for Android in the tablet market. In fact, Android tablets have been met with only minimal market acceptance to date and signs suggest that it may never become a powerhouse for tablets like it is for smartphones. For one thing, Google has various versions of its OS for tablets on the market and no consistency of releases. It often releases a new tablet OS with only one "hero" vendor so that other licensees don’t get that version for as long as six months.
There are at least two other key reasons that the mainstream version of Android for tablets may never reach its full potential. First, Amazon's Kindle Fire
uses Android, as does Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet
. In both cases, the companies have taken the base version of Android and completely customized it. In a sense, they have hijacked Android for their own purposes. The process has caused a serious splintering, or forking, of Android for tablets. Especially true in Amazon’s case, software developers have to adapt their Android apps for tablet use and to be sold through Amazon's Appstore for Android. Amazon does not include Google's Apps Marketplace since it wants to curate the apps that go into its stores to make sure they work as designed and assure that they are free of malware.
The second key reason is that many of the vendors who have backed Android for tablets are discouraged by Google’s handling of Android for tablets via the "hero" vendor model and the lack of consistency of tablet OS releases. Also, they are quite leery of Google’s acquisition of Motorola as they believe that Motorola will always get preferential treatment, even though Google denies such. They are no longer certain that Android, outside of Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s versions, may ever become widely accepted in consumer tablets in the future.
I am also seeing a major move by the likes of HP, Dell, Lenovo, and some other past Android supporters in tablets to switch to Windows 8 for tablets for a couple of reasons. These big companies mostly sell to businesses and enterprises. They had already seen the handwriting on the wall when it came to Android’s acceptance in enterprises. IT managers, who at first were enamored with Android in tablets for use in their businesses but were concerned that they would have to re-write their apps for Android, are now shifting their attention to Windows 8. The main reason is that it will support existing apps, with some touch UI tinkering, when Microsoft and its partners release Windows 8 tablets in quarter three of next year. Though that seems like a long time away, they are willing to wait since they no longer believe they can convince IT buyers to use Android if Microsoft’s has a solution that would work more seamlessly within the current IT programs.
Another issue also poses concern when it comes to tablets in business and enterprise. At the moment, Apple is the only game in town and by its own admission, it has either pilot programs or sell-ins of iPads
in 475 of the Fortune 500 businesses. In fact, it has sold 10,000 to American Airlines and United Airlines each and another 10,000 are being deployed by SAP in the coming year. I am also aware of at least ten other enterprise accounts that are considering buying more than 5,000 iPads each for their programs. Every day I hear of new business uses for the iPad and Apple is certain to enhance its push to business for the iPad in the New Year.
That suggests to me that Android in enterprise is dead in the water. While Apple has a major advantage in this area now, big Android vendors who sell to IT must support Windows 8 on tablets if they hope to eat away at Apple’s market lead.
Samsung seems to be the only vendor at the moment making any real progress with mainstream Android in the consumer space; Motorola and HTC are following behind. If they see it has a chance in the consumer market, Samsung and HTC may both adopt Windows 8 at some point, as well. This could dilute their focus on making Android successful in the consumer space.
So, while it is easy to predict that Android will continue to rule the smartphone space, the tablet market has a lot of other dynamics behind it that could keep the mainstream version of Android from ever achieving a similar domination. With Apple’s iPad lead and Microsoft’s soon-to-be entrance in tablets with Windows 8, Android for tablets may never realize its full potential.
Copyright © 2010 Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc.
Source: Will Android Ever Succeed in the Tablet Market?
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