The success of Apple's iPad touched off a number of tablet rumors revolving around Google Android, some of which may be bunk and some of which may be true. But no analyst can deny Google's recent purchases of Agnilux and Bump Technologies point to the possibility of a Google tablet or two to rival the iPad. And if Google doesn't roll out an Android tablet, others are stepping up. Adobe showed off a prototype Android tablet running Flash and Air 2 at Web 2.0 Expo last week. Meanwhile, the iPad 3G is selling well in the early going, and Best Buy and Apple stores can't keep those on the shelves either.
Talk of tablet computers has been stirred to a frenzy ever since Apple's
illustrious iPad launched and sold more
than 1 million units in less than a month.
Since that launch, there has been a lot of news swirling around tablets
based on Google's Android operating system, the iPad 3G and even HP's Slate
tablet, which could run Windows 7 or Palm webOS.
Signs of Android tablets are everywhere, some rumors, some concrete proof.
The New York Times said April 12 that Google is building a tablet
based on Android.
The company declined to confirm this, but several other happenings pointed
toward Google's interest in tablet computers. Google acquired
Agnilux, which the New York Times said
will provide Google software to adapt Android or Chrome
Operating System to run on tablets or set-top boxes.
Android tablet talk reignited in April when Google confirmed it acquired
Bump Technologies. Bump makes BumpTop, a piece of user
interface software that enables a 3D multitouch desktop on Windows and Mac
This sent a clear message to industry experts that the Google tablet rumors
are for real. Gartner analyst Leslie Fiering told eWEEK that the Android user
interface, which appeared first on smartphones, is not optimized for the larger
Fiering said BumpTop provides a differentiated interface and sends a strong
message about Google's commitment to providing support for an Android ecosystem
in the tablet space.
Boston University Prof. N. Venkat Venkatraman, chairman of the Information
Systems Department of Boston University's School
of Management, looked at the
BumpTop buy as part of the broader trend of Google's rivalry with Apple.
"Looks like Google and Apple may be defining the battle for user
interface when, just a few years back, we would have expected Microsoft to do
so," Venkatraman told eWEEK. "This intensifies the competitive battle
between Apple and Google."
He added that Google needs to figure out what lessons to take from
smartphones as it goes to other areas such as tablets, set-top boxes and
elsewhere where Android OS could be relevant.
And if Google doesn't roll out an Android tablet, others are stepping up.
Adobe showed off
a prototype Android tablet running Flash and Air 2
at Web 2.0 Expo last week.
All of these happenings mean Android is the logical "non-Apple"
choice for tablet manufacturers that want to go against the iPad, Fiering
Speaking of which, how about that iPad? More than 1 million units served and
counting. Best Buy and Apple stores can't keep them on the shelves and Apple's
manufacturers can't build them fast enough
for consumers overseas.
When the WiFi version of the iPad launched last month starting at $499,
industry watchers said it would appeal to more consumers than the more
expensive 3G version, which begins at $629.
That may prove true, but that's not to say the 3G iPad won't have its share
of buyers. The 3G iPad started rolling out
to customers who preordered it April 30. Piper Jaffary
analyst Gene Munster estimated
the iPad 3G shipped 300,000 units its first weekend.
That bodes well for 3G tablets overall. IMS Research forecasts that 3G
mobile broadband will be present in over 33 percent of tablets shipping
worldwide beginning in 2011.
While Apple's iPad is only the second 3G-connected tablet to enter the
market after Archos 5 Internet Tablet, Technicolor and Sagem, which are
offering in-home tablets marketed via fixed Internet service providers (ISPs),
are also planning to introduce 3G-enabled models within the next 12 months.
"Many consumers desire the flexibility that 3G data services are
enabling in portable devices, eliminating the dependency on WiFi home networks
and hotspots," IMS Research analyst Anna Hunt said.