What Honeycomb Means for Apple and Microsoft


Overall tablet sales for 2011 are estimated in the tens of millions, and many of those new units will run Google’s tablet-specific mobile platform, Honeycomb. Though a number of the OS’s new features and functions — from a new graphics engine to support for a variety of device sizes — appear specific to slates now, some are sure to filter down to smartphones, bringing greater Android unification across device types. And while Apple’s iPad may have the current lead in the tablet market, Honeycomb puts Google in an excellent position to catch up, much as Android has done in competing with iOS. But Apple isn’t the only competitor Google’s got in its crosshairs: Microsoft is also likely to be affected, from both a mobile and a desktop computing perspective.

Much of Honeycomb is a bit of a “catch up” effort from Google, as Apple’s iOS has a nearly 12-month head start in the tablet market. And while many Honeycomb features are similar to those available in iOS, a few standout functions actually jump past Apple’s tablet platform:

  • Honeycomb supports multiple cameras, including 3-D stereoscopic image recording. And its ability to provide Google Talk users with a front-facing camera for video chat is a direct strike against Apple’s FaceTime.
  • Android Market apps can be purchased and sent over the air to either a Honeycomb tablet or any recent Android smartphone. Apple’s iPad has a built-in app store, just like Honeycomb tablets do, but doesn’t support app discovery and purchase over the air from a computer.
  • Honeycomb supports various screen sizes, which offer hardware makers a way to differentiate their tablet against Apple’s “one-size-fits-all” iPad. With the relative success of the older Samsung Galaxy Tab, Google has proven there’s a market for smaller slates.
  • An increased number of Android tablets strengthens Google’s advertising base. Put another way, every Honeycomb tablet sold is another lost opportunity for Apple’s iAd platform, which started with initial success last year but has been hampered by lackluster performance since.

Honeycomb affects Microsoft both from a mobile perspective as well as that of the desktop. Microsoft revamped its smartphone platform with Windows Phone 7, but as of yet, it has no mobile tablet operating system aside from the tablet integrations within Windows 7, which is not designed from the ground up for touch computing.

Without a true, light mobile operating system, Microsoft is left to stand by and watch iPads, and soon likely Honeycomb tablets, sell in the millions. Microsoft is already facing pressure on the desktop side as smartphones outsell traditional computers, since more platform revenues will be flowing to other companies. Yet Microsoft is only just beginning to fight back with Windows Phone 7, and has yet to mount a consumer tablet challenger. And therein lies the danger.

Simply put, Honeycomb looks to be the mobile platform and ecosystem that Microsoft should have built by now. Instead, Microsoft is behind and will be fighting amongst HP, Research In Motion and others for smaller tablet market shares, if and when it ever creates a lighter version of Windows for tablets.

To read about who else Honeycomb affects, see my latest research note at GigaOM Pro (subscription required)

Image courtesy of: flickr user Lithfin

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Your optimism is admirable, but the Motorola XOOM and its price tag unfortunately make this a comedy piece.

Honeycomb means nothing to Apple. Totally irrelevant. Kindle is a more serious competitor right now and for 2 years at least. Apple has a successful mobile PC platform with native C apps and over 20 million installed base. Honeycomb has baby Java apps and no users.

Microsoft already built a complicated, expensive tablet that nobody wanted. The fact that Honeycomb looks like a Microsoft product says bad things about Google, not Microsoft. By the time Honeycomb gets any kind of user base, if that even happens, NT will show up on ARM with native C apps.

Who is going to pay $800 for a Motorola tablet with no guarantee of even getting an Android v3.1 update? Every Android manufacturer has shown these are throwaway devices by providing no long-term support, no platform support.

The consumer view of Honeycomb is it’s like an iPad, but without Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Apple Store, Genius Bar, automatic software updates, easy restore, most of the apps including all the full-size apps, most of the accessories and cases, the high quality hardware, the high-end brand, and more. And yet it’s $800 instead of $500, which is 60% more expensive. And the data plans require contracts instead of a la carte. And the monthly bills are $50 instead of $15-$25. That is not a winning formula.

Maybe the market will prove me wrong.


Android has a native (i.e. C/C++) SDK (NDK) too – you’re not limited to developing in Java.

I’m surprised no-one has yet mentioned Windows 8 which is Microsofts ARM-based tablet OS, which has already been demonstrated.

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Funny thing that Any tablet has OS and Hardware, and both Hardware and OS making a tablet successful, so whether Honeycomb would be better than iOS can be and in my opinion will be hardware battle.


Microsoft is late.

What should a latecomer do to catch up? Use some existing off-the-shelf components. In other words, use open-source software. Take a Linux or BSD kernel. Build an interface on top. Use a WebKit browser.

Microsoft would have needed to swallow its pride to do that. Well, more to the point, Ballmer would have had to have swallowed his pride.


They passed up the opportunity to do that in 2003 when Longhorn crashed and burned. People have been saying for years that the NT core burns time and shareholder money and gives no benefit.

If Microsoft had a clue they would have ported NT to ARM in 2005. With half a clue they would have started to port NT to ARM after seeing that Apple had ported OS X to ARM in January, 2007. To be just starting on that in 2011 means no clue at all.

But Google is also way behind. They are just Son Of Microsoft. They refuse to do native C apps for similar dogmatic reasons to Microsoft staying with NT. And Google is using the same hardware/software split that does not create consumer devices that people actually want to buy. If you are giving phones away free, then OK, but an $800 tablet computer running Android? Not unless you have an IBM monopoly sales channel to push it through. It is Apple who has the best channel today, and also the best economies of scale, with 20 million of the exact same device and that’s only so far.

Jim Frost

That NT core has been a huge cash cow and is the basis for practically everything Microsoft has done in the last decade-plus, from PDAs to phones to desktops to game boxes.

I give Microsoft a hard time because Vista and Win7 are horribly inefficient for what they do, and that’s started to hurt them on the low end, but the core technology is pretty good. It’s what they put on top — registry, filesystems, and UI — that has become rather bloated. The HP Slate needs too much hardware to compete with the iPad, for instance, even if it Win7 had a decent touch interface, which it doesn’t.

Microsoft already has Windows on ARM, and has had it for years. It was the core of WinMo and it’s the core of WinPhone7. It’s insane, in my view, not to use that core to fight Apple in tablets. It works, it’s efficient, and they even have a world-class UI. If they pushed WinPhone7 to tablets they could have a product out there by the end of this year. It would probably be too late anyway, with the iPad entrenched and zillions of Androids, but pursuing a Win8 strategy — due in 2013 — is outright crazy. WinPhone7 was four years late and is languishing; a four year late tablet OS isn’t going to do any better.

To be honest I think the problem is not technology. They have that. The problem is management that has become very risk-averse to the point where they are having trouble competing. It wasn’t that way when Gates was at the helm. Ballmer is just bad at this and if they don’t get rid of him it’s going to sink Microsoft.

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It’s too early to predict ultimately whether Nokia and Windows Phone 7 can catch iOS and Android … But, given the head start and critical mass that both Apple and Google have, it would not be for some time.


I like the idea of the article, but two things:

“Apple’s iPad has a built-in app store, just like Honeycomb tablets do, but doesn’t support app discovery…”

How exactly does Android support app discovery, beyond the same kind of in-store advertisement (which on the phone is rarely updated – on my Droid Incredible it’s been the same for weeks) that iOS has?

“Honeycomb looks to be the mobile platform and ecosystem that Microsoft should have built by now”

Actually, Honeycomb looks to be the mobile platform and ecosystem that Google should have built a year ago. MS should have built it then too, for the Slate, when they announced it, sure, but frankly Android is still not quite there yet. I’m excited to see what Honeycomb does, but it remains to be seen how a relatively fractured ecosystem is pulled up by very a somewhat device-specific OS.


Ed, you forgot to read the whole sentence. The important part is at the end,

“app discovery and purchase over the air from a computer.”

With Android, you can browse for apps from your *computer* and have them sent directly to your Android device.


theres no reason to believe Android wont do to iOS on tablets the samething it did on phones, rise up & conquer on it’s way too dominant marketshare.

Apples mindshare was FAR stronger in phones than tablets, yet Android still stole all it’s momentum.

you have to be somewhat sensitive to AppleFans, to blow your lead twice in 2 decades is crushing mentally. Google is going to do to Apple now the samething Microsoft did in the 90’s.

Steves a visionary? maybe in creating markets but not maintaining them.


Tablets are different than phones – The distribution system is entirely different for widespread adoption – Apple (&HP) have that. The android tablet makers are phone manufacturers and don’t so it’s not nearly a given that they will be as widespread as in phones.

And, please, don’t be so patronizing to Apple fans, Apple is taking most of the money to the bank, that provides R&D funds – Your android manufacturers are more like Dell, hurting. But I suppose they can just keep coping Apple. If they hadn’t done it already, android would be nothing more than a RIM clone.


Yep, LG is a just ph^H^H maker of bloody everything from Apple’s displays to TV’s. And Samsung .. oh wait … samsung makes most of the parts for the iPhone and a ton of other tech for 100’s of other companies. And let’s seeeeeeeeee … Cisco is making corp. geared tablet’s for Android and they do VoIP teleconf. systems that are ………. wait for it …….. going to be using Android.

All of the comments I’ve seen so far are from a position of ignorance and Apple Fandom. ;)

Over 80 tablets … just tablets were announced at CES. Not to mention all the other devices.

This comment brought to you care of a MacbookPro. So how about we have a little competition to spur innovation .. instead of “one phone” or “one tablet” to rule them all. How very boring.


Thanks for proving my point – They are all OEMs, their consumer goods are almost all cell/carrier retail (limited distribution channels).

Position of ignorance? – Look in the mirror once in awhile.

80 tablets announced – Announced is the key word – Very few actually demo’d and none actually shipping – Announcing at CES means nothing. Look at past years.

Competition’s good – There just aren’t many out there that can actually compete. That’s not Apple’s fault.

Jim Frost

It’s really worth remembering that the phone market was heavily biased against Apple. In several major markets, for instance, Apple was unable to sell on more than one carrier for four years — in fact, that didn’t change until just a few weeks ago in the largest smartphone market there is. Android, on the other hand, launched on just abut every carriere in existence.

It will take a couple of years before that initial advantage completely wears off and only then will it be apples-to-apples (so to speak). I expect Android to continue to do well, but it’s no longer going to win by default in a lot of cases and that is surely going to hurt its growth.

In other markets, and particularly those where subsidization doesn’t make such a difference, Apple has been creming everyone else. Tablets? It’s too early to tell if the Galaxy Tab sales are real or just sell-in to retailers, but even if they’re real Apple is beating them more than four to one. Palmtops that aren’t phones? The iPod touch has no competition despite selling more than 50 million units.

I hope Honeycomb does well but the iPad competitors need to figurre out a way to get their prices down for that to happen. $800 Xoom tablets are going to sell a whole lot of nothin’.


Yes, some fanboyism going on – “relative success of the older Samsung Galaxy Tab, Google has proven there’s a market for smaller slates” – Success? Every report I’ve read said failure. And, Google hasn’t proven anythjing, especially a small slate market.

Will be interesting to see what happens if something ships – Reports so far say Honeycomb is way to desktop/geeky for the normal consumer. Time will tell.


Since the article writer is likely a card-carrying Android fanboi, if he didn’t write about Android tablet vaporware, then he’d have nothing to say at all about Android tablets. Honeycomb isn’t on any retail tablet and except for the Galaxy Tab 1, there aren’t any major companies shipping Android products that even come with Honeycomb.

It’s like you said. Let’s just sit around and chat about how actual consumers think their wonderful Honeycomb OS Android tablets are. I can hear the silence already.


“Honeycomb supports multiple cameras”

Yes, but so does iOS. Honeycomb isn’t a shipping tangible product, it’s an OS for other people to build shipping, tangible products on (something that hasn’t happened yet). Based on any shred of logic and reasoning, this is still just a ‘catch-up’ item.

Until tablets are shipping from any vendor with honeycomb or iOS 4.4/5, you’re just comparing vapors to vapors…

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