Google Hopes Co-Branded Tablets Will Compete Against iPad

| Analysis

Google is planning to sell tablets branded with with the Google logo in an effort to better compete with Apple’s iPad. Citing unnamed sources, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google will be working with Android device makers to develop new tablets, and that it will sell those tablets through its own online store.

Now with more Unicorn!

Google Tablets - Now With More Unicorn!

The move would edge Google a tad closer to Apple’s whole widget business model, and it would also signal that the company is dissatisfied with its Android licensees when it comes to the tablet market.

For instance, Google briefly sold its own Android smartphone, the Google Nexus One, in 2010. It was a device that was praised when released, but it never saw robust sales. This was most likely a by-product of the lack of subsidizing deals with U.S. carriers, leaving potential customers to pay the full retail price.

The key, however, is that Google eventually stopped selling the the Nexus One and didn’t replace it with another Google-branded device. The company has since cited the the wide array of competitive Android smartphones that subsequently entered the market, and today Android has majority market share over Apple’s iPhone. In other words, Google no longer felt the need to offer a Google branded device because its OEM partners were doing quite well.

The tablet market has been a different kettle of fish altogether. Apple’s iPad created the market in the first place, and despite wide boasts and wider expectations that Samsung, Motorola, Asus, Acer, and a seemingly infinite array of Chinese OEMS would due to iPad what was done to iPhone, the iPad continues to remain supreme.

Are Your Experienced?

Our premise for this phenomenon is a simple one: Internet access is the killer app for smartphones, while the overall user experience is the killer app for tablets.

Android smartphones can access the Internet just fine, for all and intents and purposes, just as well as the iPhone. This has played well to the strengths of open licensing, which results in hundreds of competing devices being offered across a wide range of prices.

The overall user experience, however, plays directly to Apple’s strengths of offering a curated App Store, tightly integrated software and hardware, and economic realities that make Apple the price leader in tablets. Android can’t touch that, and the proof is in the results. Apple is expected to maintain 73% of the tablet market this quarter, results similar to the way the iPod dominated and still dominates the MP3 player market.

Forked!

The only tablet that has really seen success is Amazon’s low-end Kindle Fire. While it runs Android, it’s a forked version of Google’s operating system without Android’s look and feel or direct access to Google services.

Instead, Kindle Fire has a custom Amazon-built interface that acts as a direct conduit to Amazon products. It’s a vehicle for selling Kindle books, ordering physical goods from Amazon, and pushing Amazon Prime subscriptions for those wanting to watch video content on the 7” device.

At $199, it’s cheap, slow, and made of plastic, but that price point has been enough to get millions of people to buy one, and future iterations of the device will no doubt offer improved hardware.

In other words, Kindle Fire hasn’t done a darned thing for Google other than prove that demand in the tablet market is based on the user experience and the ecosystem, something Google’s version of Android simply doesn’t have.

Never Surrender, Never Give Up

Google hasn’t been complacent, however. The company recently brought all of the Android content it could to one place, Google Play. Apps, TV shows, movies, and books for Android tablets are all under one digital roof, coming that much closer to Apple’s iTunes and Amazon.com’s digital Kindle offerings.

This is a big step forward for Google, in our opinion, though the company still has a variety of other issues that are part and parcel with its come one, come all open licensing strategy.

Google stepping in and working with its OEM licensees to develop new tablets is another positive move forward. While we would like to see the company be even bolder and embrace the whole widget model using its Motorola Mobility acquisition, putting its fingers in the development pie with its top OEMs will at least ensure that some tablets are more tightly integrated with Google’s Android software.

At Last, the Online Store for Tablets!

Will selling them online at a Google-owned store help, too? This seems a tad more iffy to us. The reason Android tablets aren’t selling isn’t because no one can find them—they’ve been available at big box retailers and electronics stores all along, and are still widely available on Amazon’s site, even though they compete with Kindle.

They aren’t being bought because there’s nothing much to do with them, many can’t be upgraded, and there’s simply no real ecosystem for the devices (see above for notes on the experience). Offering a variety of devices under one Google roof certainly won’t hurt anything, but it’s not going to be a magic bullet to dramatically goose sales.

Conclusion

Google CEO Larry Page really seems to have taken the late Steve Jobs’s personal advice to focus on fewer products and to make them great. The company has shed dozens of minor projects, and it has been focusing on such things as user interface in products like Google+ and its other online services. As noted above, Google Play is also a good step towards building an ecosystem that can result in the kind of overall user experience that will actually appeal to people.

Getting involved with the development process is another positive step forward. Making an experience is something companies like Samsung, HTC, and Motorola Mobility are simply ill equipped to do, but by butting in and exerting pressure on form factors, performance, and adherence to standards (assuming that will be part of this effort), the company can help overcome the deficiencies of its OEM partners.

To really bring it home, though, Google is going to have to take even more ownership of its tablets if it wants Android to be competitive in the market Apple built. We would be surprised if the company was willing to do so.

Unicorn courtesy of Shutterstock.

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22 Comments Leave Your Own

wtf?

google will be selling tables?

coming soon to an art van near you

yes, the google table, will come in either plastic, or plastic with Velure accents. starting at $99 until the price drops rediculiously because there is no demand for the product.

Wayne Nguyen

You mispelled “tablets” on you header.

mrmwebmax

+

Now With More Unicorn!

ROTFLMFAO…. smile

Bryan Chaffin

The title has been corrected!

Thanks for the notes.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The move would edge Google a tad closer to Apple?s whole widget business model

In other news, the Japanese earthquake of 2011 nudged the country a tad closer to Greenland.

Roger Robie

First off, HOW THE HECK do you misspell tablet in the title of an article about…. tablets

Google Play is a MAJOR misstep, expect a brand change there within the year.

Google is incompetent.

Jamie Cullen

I hope their tablets aren’t as crappy as their phones are.  The Nexus One by HTC was a great phone.  Bought the Nexus S thinking I was going to get the same quality, and boy was I mistaken.  No Gorilla Glass?  Really?  There is a stress point on those phones at the earpiece bevel (which should be chamfered to relieve the stress by the way) Cracked once under light use.  Paid $170 to get it fixed, and the same damn thing happened less than one month later.  I’ll never buy another Samsung phone.  I’m all for the Google experience, but they had better be a little more selective with their manufacturers for me to keep with the program.

geoduck

Love the graphic. I’ll be giggling about that all weekend.

You know, if you put out a higher resolution version (Without the Google logo that it, I think a lot of people would want that as their iPad screen. I know I would.

Daymon

First off, HOW THE HECK do you misspell tablet in the title of an article about?. tablets

Roger, get a hobby, or go help your mom bring the groceries in. People being what they are (people) make mistakes. You’ve never done that before, right?

Bryan Chaffin

Thanks, Daymon. smile

Thanks for the note on the graphic, Geo. Happy to send you a higher resolution. Drop me a note about it.

Lee Dronick

A while back we were discussing what Apple would name OSX 11, if it ever happens. I was thinking of mythical God such as Zeus, Thor, Steve, but they could go with mythical creatures. Unicorn is a bit weak, but they could go with Pegasus, Cerberus, Chubracabra,

Table Lover

Google news still says this article is about Tables.

gumby

hey, don’t know if you realize this, but you cant just change the title on the page. links pointing to the page from other sources (including Google’s new page, which is pretty dam funny) don’t care if the displayed title is correct.
here’s an idea: there’s a neat function called “find | replace”.
not sure if macs have that….

Bryan Chaffin

Yeah, Table Lover, Google tends not to rescrape articles if they are changed.

My apologies for any confusion.

gumby

hey bryan - yer still not getting it. try going to google (assuming you can spell it) and hit the “F5” button…

philipmak

Hello, I just renovated my house.. the google tables sounds like a good idea. ahhahahhhahaha

Bryan Chaffin

Gumby, I completely understand that Google has the original, incorrect title. I, however, also understand that Google doesn’t let me edit its databases.

Bryan Chaffin

Hello, I just renovated my house.. the google tables sounds like a good idea. ahhahahhhahaha

I’d consider getting one. smile

Maybe it was a Freudian slip…

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Welcome to the Maccab Server.

wab95

Bryan:

A very thoughtful piece, and worthy of thoughtful response.

Taking a step back and perhaps even a LEO view (low earth orbital), I think there are two broad issues at play here, but both interact and both could, and likely will affect Google’s odds of success in the tablet space.

The first is, for want of a better term, Google’s business model (or any other competitor’s model in this arena), and the second is the ecosystem.

Regarding the first, not just the tablet industry, but the entire iDevice, mini-supercomputer industry (because that is what smartphones and tablets really are, using the standards of the eras in which theses devices were first dreamt), is one in dynamic evolution. Companies are groping to find their way in a fog of outdated and, increasingly, discredited models of yesteryear. Google publicly cited the example of Microsoft and it’s licencing model to hardware OEMs, and that platform’s ultimate victory over the Mac, as a rationale for its tablet strategy heretofore, and predicted that it would do unto the iPad what Windows had done unto the Mac. That it has not worked, and shows no sign of working, exposes profound flaws in their analysis, and only underscores that they, as have many before, failed to understand the factors that led to Windows dominance over the Mac. Moreover, they failed to appreciate that this was not 1984 or even 1990, nor was this the same Apple as then. Rather, in the tablet and iDevice space, in order to be competitive, tighter integration of the hardware and software, secured supply lines to contain costs, and a simplified product lineup with elegance and streamlined features, rather than a confusing even if impressive bevy of specs, has been a winning formula.

Regarding the second, ecosystem, if there were any residual illusion that competing with the iPad was about specs, the Amazon Fire Tablet clearly dispelled it, at least for sane amongst us. Rather it’s an integrated ecosystem of apps and other content, as well as services, that drive sales. People are buying into a solution for a problem they are only just beginning to realise they had.

Both of these, business model and ecosystem, can be reduced to a single objective and a single point of success, namely user experince, which Apple have made the hallmark of their handiwork across their entire lineup of goods and services.

The ticket for competitiveness, then, against Apple’s arsenal is at least as competitive a user experience, if not a superior one, in order to draw customers, like a heat sink, away from Apple. In other words, the bar is high (stratospheric), and the air thin, where eagles dare.

mhikl

Wav95, you and Bryan have thoughtfully spelt out what makes Apple?s job so simple, why the competition find Steve?s and now Tim?s path so difficult to copy well, and why they will continue to fumble the etherial balls that Apple has designed and owns. It is Time that is Apple?s defence against enemy?s clumsy attempts to think inside the Apple box. I believe the dilemma, like a chinese finger trap, tightens Apple?s reign the more its designs are copied. Copies are rarely art and copying enslaves the artist, limiting his adventure to new styles and design. Without some broad stroke of inspired thought and nurtured sight to come up with something spanking new, yet enticing, fewer opportunities will arise for those who don?t have the adventure within them to boldly go where no Apple has gone before. The competition has become so mesmerised by Apple?s style and method that they are slavishly bound to lap along behind in their blind attempts at replication.

I also suspect it is time Apple quit its trips to the courts and chose another game that is in play and where Apple would have a good chance of success against the aggressors: Apple is so articulate in its designs and strategies that I believe Apple could beat the Samsungs, and the mighty Google, at their own game. Apple has already usurped Google with Siri so why not make a clandestine effort to design its own search engine. It may take years, if Apple isn?t already working on such a design, but it could prove a real thorn in the great searcher?s heal. Secondly, when Samsung or anyone comes out with an original twist to any mobile feature, Apple should slavishly follow the copy cats? stratagem and issue its own new but much superior edition and call it original work, just as the copy cats do now. To prepare for this, Apple can continue to call the iPad just the iPad and even do the same with the iPhone, but it will need to be able to differentiate iterations much as my MacBook was differentiated by its release time, the 2007 summer edition. Shortening the length of time between iterations would be expensive, but we know who has the greatest capital in the bank to win at this game.

While thinking of the copiers dilemma I was drawn to an analogy from the movie, A Brilliant Mind, the idea of the beautiful woman all the young men desire but are destined in competition to lose. Apple is like the luring siren clouding the eyes and minds to the bevy of beautiful designs that may actually be within easier reach if a competitor?s eyes would open to other possibilities. This is the lesson Samsung and the others have failed to learn. On the other hand, with its strengths and patience, Apple has the ability to design beyond slavish copies to beat the rabble at their own limiting game.

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