There is no doubt that Android is killing it in the phone space. They have come to market with an open platform that allows the flexibility for OEMs to bring a variety of devices to market. These devices can be a low end 128mb Smartphone for free to consumers (or very cheap on the open market) all the way up to a high end device with fantastic processors, large amounts of storage, NFC and stunning design. If you are on the market for a Smartphone.. Android will have one that fits your pricepoint.. and arguably can do it quite well for that price. It doesn’t mean it’s a better phone than an iPhone or Windows Phone 7.. but it is good enough for the price.
The challenge standard Android tablets are running into are partially due to some of the same things that are making the phones a success. When users look at a “luxury device” like a tablet, they are falling into two buckets. People who want basic email/browse capabilities with a few applications, or the power users who want a lot of applications and the ability to be more productive with them. The problem is, Android is unable to compete for the consumer market with either one of these scenarios.
iPad is killing it with market penetration on tablets right now. They have captured the hearts of the general consumer and are getting people to spend the money to get the best tablets available on the market to day. Many people will argue these are not full computers.. and are limited to content consumption. I disagree.. with the right applications, you can be very productive. The iPads are easy to use, accessories are everywhere and they just work.
Windows 8 tablets will be here.. well, eventually. No solid dates but we all know they are coming. Microsoft released the Windows 8 consumer preview this week and it’s getting great reviews. The benefits to Windows 8? Well, first off.. it IS a real computer. Not some limited device. This literally will be a take-along device that is your full system. Accessories will be everywhere for them and people will get to know the OS very well. I am excited about what will come with these new tablets/slates.
Standard Android tablets .. where does this leave you? Sure.. you can try to compete against a $399 iPad price point.. but with weaker hardware and an outdated version of Android. Do you think that will get much more market share than geeky devs looking to toy around? Have you ever tried to hook an SD reader to an Android tablet? Did it work? Fragmentation, an open source OS and hardware limitations are going to be the death of Android tablets ever making it fully mainstream. Sure there will be people buying them.. but in a year, the items you will see people carrying are going to be Win8 and iPad primarily. The iPad will have a nice low price point with great hardware.. and Windows 8 tablets will be covering those who want a real computer with them. This doesn’t leave much room in the market for mainstream products.
One tablet I left out was the Kindle Fire. While technically this is an Android tablet, I put this into special category. Amazon was smart. Leverage the base of an open OS and customize the heck out of it to target a more niche play. Curate the app store to protect your users and focus on some key scenarios. (quality apps, kindle book reading, media) This is the one area I think you will see Android succeed. If there are niche markets to be had.. Amazon is the one figuring it out. The Fire is a great device. Now.. if only they could contribute back to the Android source code.