It’s fair to say the initial generation of Android tablets has disappointed those who were hoping to tap into demand for tablets generated by Apple’s runaway iPad momentum. Plenty of blame has been laid at Motorola’s feet for initial pricing decisions, but it’s a much broader problem, according to graphics chip maker Nvidia.
“It’s a point of sales problem. It’s an expertise at retail problem. It’s a marketing problem to consumers. It is a price point problem,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of the company, in an interview with CNET. Although a fair amount of criticism regarding Android tablets has focused on bugs in the Android 3.0 software, which Google (NSDQ: GOOG) moved to fix last week at Google I/O with the release of a new version, Huang’s comments underscore the fact that Android partners have such a difficult time competing with Apple’s retail operation.
Many Android tablets have gotten second-class promotion at places like Best Buy, where the *Motorola* Xoom was found on a recent trip to the Emeryville, California store as far back as it could possibly be in the “computer” section, yards away from where other Motorola (NYSE: MMI) products were being sold in the phone section. Things are starting to change in this regard, as Samsung works to promote its Galaxy Tab models more aggressively, but Android tablet makers need to be doing as much as possible within third-party retailers to promote their products in hopes of reaching consumers dazzled by trips to Apple’s own retail stores.
Huang thinks the situation is getting better, but it underscores the problem of trying to catch Apple (NSDQ: AAPL). Either those hoping to cash in on tablets have to come up with something demonstrably better than the iPad–which hasn’t happened yet–or they need to price and promote their products accordingly to provide a true alternative for those who want tablets. It took a fair amount of time (around a year) before smartphone buyers saw Android as a competitive alternative to the iPhone, and it’s looking likely that tablet makers may need a similar amount of time to gain their footing.