Blog Post

This Week Is a Coming-Out Party for Android Tablets

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

After nearly five months of owning the consumer tablet market, Apple’s iPad (s aapl) is about to face its first real competition in the form of expected Android (s goog) slate announcements at this week’s IFA show in Berlin, Germany. While several vendors have built Android tablets over the past year, none have rivaled the sales success of the iPad, mainly because the still-maturing Android platform wasn’t optimized for such devices. There’s still room for improvement if Android-powered tablets are to be successful, but for the first time that I can recall, these slates may finally appeal to consumers, especially as faster, dual-core processors arrive. It’s no coincidence that before the curtain falls at IFA, Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, wraps up the show with the final keynote.

You Say You Want Resolution. The first major shot to be fired in the tablet war is expected from Samsung later this week as it will unveil the Samsung Galaxy Tab at the IFA show in Berlin this Thursday. “Unveil” may be too strong a word, however, due to various image leaks and teaser videos of the 7-inch touchscreen tablet. Based on those, it’s likely that Samsung has overcome a key challenge that I identified previously: the limiting maximum 854 x 480 resolution supported by Android 2.2. The official specs hit in two days, but investigative review of code for the tablet indicates it will run a more effective 1024 x 600 resolution. If true, the Galaxy Tab will offer a higher PPI, or pixels per inch, bringing greater screen clarity than Apple’s current iPad.

You Can Buy Me Apps. A clear screen is only part of the picture, however. While Android’s web browser is fairly comparable to that of the iPad — and supports the Adobe (s adbe) Flash Player 10.1 — consumers crave apps. Unfortunately, no prior Android slates have offered official access to Google’s Android Market, so the devices have been hobbled with workarounds, direct installs from developers and unofficial marketplaces. Much of the iPad’s success — and that of other iOS devices, for that matter — is directly related to application ecosystem Apple introduced back in 2008. Without such an ecosystem, Android tablets don’t have a chance for mainstream consumer success. I’m anticipating that Google will finally adjust the device requirements needed for Market access, starting with the Galaxy Tab and continuing with many tablets to follow.

You Want A Top Performer. In addition to Samsung, it’s likely that Toshiba will enter this market at the IFA show as well. Details about the Folio 100 with its 10-inch touchscreen leaked earlier this week and if correct, the specifications show a high-powered device thanks to Nvidia’s (s nvda) Tegra 2 processor. Carrypad has benchmarked the Toshiba AC 100, a smartbook that has similar guts to the Folio 100, and found that certain performance marks exceed that of the Google Nexus One running Android 2.2 by a factor of three. The device can also flawlessly play back a 1080p video file at 13 Mbps bit rate, showing performance prowess that could sway some from an iPad to an Android tablet.

Every Journey Begins With a Single Step. Other manufacturers, such as Acer, ASUS, and Viewsonic, are sure to follow Samsung and Toshiba with Android tablet announcements this week, because the combination of powerful mobile hardware and improved software is finally available. After months of platform maturity, Android device manufacturers are poised to make a play in this market instead of watching Apple’s iPad gobble up millions of sales per month. Much like the first iteration of Android handsets, these tablets aren’t likely to do more than make a small dent in the tablet market. But as Google continues to add features with future versions of Android, broaden its application ecosystem and work with hardware partners to get Android everywhere, the iPad could finally face some stiffer competition in the coming months, starting this week.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Can Anyone Compete With the iPad?

14 Responses to “This Week Is a Coming-Out Party for Android Tablets”

  1. I also picked up the iPad when it was released and so far it is filling the gap between my Macbook Pro, and Netbook. I can see these newer devices trying to get some of the tablet market, but Apple is ahead so far. Mainly in my opinion is the App Store. I don’t need flash so I will be sticking to my iPad for now.

  2. Kevin, there were Android tablet *announcements* at CES eight months ago – as you well know, since you were there. I don’t see how additional announcements for not-yet-available hardware is any more of a “coming-out” than we’ve already had.

    • Scott, you’re absolutely right, but there’s a few key differences. Back then, Android 2.1 was just hitting. A number of tablets running Android 1.6 have been produced but they’re not selling because 1.6 isn’t even close to what Android 2.1 (and now 2.2) offers. Another variable – most of the tablets that actually came to market after CES were from smaller players. Now the “big boys” are getting involved: Samsung, LG, and Toshiba to name a few.

      Simply put: the time wasn’t right for viable Android tablets this past January. Now that the software has matured and we have solid hardware (think 1 GHz or better processors) to run the platform, I expect we’ll see viable Android tablets as opposed to the poor attempts of the past.

    • That’s the rumor – which I tend to believe. Right now, it’s Verizon-Android and AT&T-iOS in terms of major U.S. mobile strategy, so it definitely fits. And I agree with you: not everyone wants a mobile device that’s tied to a carrier for 2 years, so here’s hoping there’s a Wi-Fi version.

  3. Bob Morris

    Wish I was going to IFA, I expect to see a couple more pop up. There will be a lot of choices in ARM-based Android tablets going into the holiday season. As you pointed out, “every journey begins with a single step.”

  4. “consumers crave apps”
    I think that the reality is more like “providers crave app revenues.”
    I just don’t see apps taking off on non-Apple devices at any point in the foreseeable future, especially ones that support Flash.

    • I believe most of the Apps are pretty stupid and useless anyway so it really doesn’t matter how many thousands of Apps you can get for the iPad. iPad lovers will still love their iPad and other people will either jump on the bandwaggon or do like me and wait a few years for the bugs to be worked out of all the models, compare them and make a decision.

  5. NeoteriX

    Not a fan of the new RSS feed format that obscures the text from the feed :(

    As a regular reader and commenter, I definitely click through to the actual page getting the ad views that is a core part of your business. However, I strongly prefer the flexibility of doing my initial reading in my RSS browser.

    • I hear you, but we actually haven’t changed from the full RSS feed that I know of. However, I think I see what happened as I just went to our network-wide feed.

      This story was originally published here on GigaOM and in the RSS feed, the full text shows. We thought the post might be of interest to jkOTR readers – clearly it is, because that’s where you saw it! ;) The feed for a crosspost only shows the excerpt, because that’s what you also see on jkOTR. Complicated, but I think that’s why you didn’t see the full post in RSS. Had you been looking at the GigaOM feed, it’s all there. Hope that helps explain…