Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) search experience on tablets has been pretty good to date.
Google search on the immensely successful Apple iPad has been a breeze. The virtual keyboard on slates running Google's Android "Honeycomb" operating system is wide and evenly spaced, certainly better than that of any smartphone.
Of course, one of Google's core tenets concerns improving speed from users' input actions to the consumption of Web content. To that end, the company has simplified the layout of search results pages and boosted the size of text, buttons and other "touch targets."
Google shed the navigation bar at the left hand side of the screen. Instead, the search button located below the search box now provides quick access to images, videos, places, shopping and date range refinements, all accessible with easy taps.
Image results also now include larger image previews, continuous scroll and faster loading of image thumbnails.
Google said the new search refinements, which mirror in theory the easy-to-use refinements that live in the left-hand rail in Google.com's desktop search, are rolling out soon to iPad and Android 3.1+ tablets in 36 languages.
Such capabilities should make searching Google.com faster from a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 or Asus Eee Pad Transformer in both portrait and landscape view.
Google also took the opportunity to spruce up search ads it optimizes for tablets, according to Surojit Chatterjee, product manager for Google mobile ads.
Users who enter in a search query when the tablet is in landscape mode will see only up to two top ads above the search results. Users who search when the tablet is in portrait mode will see only up to three ads above the search results.
Finally, Google will only show up to three ads at the bottom of search results whether the slate is positioned in portrait or landscape mode.
Google has never been shy about advertising, but tablets are green fields for the search engine because the 7- to 10-inch-screen real estate of the slates lies in between 4-inch smartphone displays and 15-inch desktop and laptop monitors.
The company needs to make sure it gets this user experience right, placing ads that are valuable to partners and consumers in a way that is accessible to all without getting in the way of content. In other words, it's the same challenge on a different palette.
The market for tablet ads isn't expected to be as lucrative as that of smartphones. This is because there will continue to be hundreds of millions of smartphones to tens of millions of tablets. But Google can't afford to let another mobile ad player swoop in and out-innovate it on the tablet.