A Google, Verizon Tablet Can Win with the Right Design

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-05-13

10 Crucial Features Google, Verizon Must Build into a Tablet PC

Earlier this week, Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam told the Wall Street Journal that his company is working with Google on developing tablets that will use several of the search giant's services to deliver a device that could rival the iPad.

Those are big plans for a company that is currently far behind its top competitor in the tablet market. But they are also the plans that anyone who enjoys competition in the tech industry should like to hear about.

Apple's iPad is the only major tablet currently on store shelves. And unfortunately for Google (and Verizon Wireless), it's a device that has set the standard in the tablet market. Worst of all, a growing number of consumers-more than 1 million at last count-are quickly realizing that if they want touch functionality in a device that's bigger than an iPhone or a Nexus One, they need an iPad.

Once the Google-Verizon tablet comes out, that might change. But the only chance of users opting for that tablet over an iPad will come if the new product boasts the features consumers really want.

That's why we've decided to identify some features that must make their way to the tablet from Google and Verizon Wireless.

Let's take a look:

1. Comparable touch control

The iPad's touch screen has made it the success it is today. Tapping around the display is enjoyable, and controlling movement is unparalleled in the space. If Google and Verizon want their tablet to be successful, they must deliver touch control that can compete on every level with the iPad. Remember the BlackBerry Storm? Its touch interface and control was so poor, it didn't even come close to matching the iPhone's sales figures. Apple has set a standard for touch screens in the market, and Google must equal or surpass that standard.

2. Affordability

The iPad is expensive. For the average home user who simply wants to be more productive on the couch, buying a cheap notebook or even a netbook instead of an iPad isn't such a bad idea. That said, only Apple can get away with selling a tablet for that price. Google and Verizon can't. That's why the companies need to beat the iPad on price. Unfortunately for them, $50 won't cut it. For the device to be successful, at least a $100 price difference is required. It also wouldn't hurt if Verizon offered cheaper data plans than those from AT&T.

3. Flash support

The debate over Flash on the iPad is a heated one. And although Adobe's standard has several inherent issues that could cause devices harm, it's still operating the vast majority of videos and games on the Web. Whether Apple wants to admit it or not, the iPad browsing experience has been hobbled somewhat by the lack of Flash. Users can't always see Web content, and playing games is practically impossible without downloading titles from the App Store. If Google can offer Flash, it would eliminate its need to ramp up app production right away. It would also help it deliver a better browsing experience.

4. Google's core services (for free)

In order to use iWork on the iPad, owners need to dole out $10 per application. That's not the end of the world, but it's not ideal either. Google can use that issue to its advantage by offering its Docs service for free. Users would be able to edit documents, create presentations and consult spreadsheets from within the tablet without having to pay a dime to do it. The offering would not only help it with its battle against the iPad, but it could also help Google increase market share as it attempts to take on Microsoft Office. It's a win-win for the search giant.

A Google, Verizon Tablet Can Win with the Right Design

7. A slightly bigger screen

The iPad has a beautiful display. But it would have been even nicer if it were slightly larger. With some forward thinking, Google and Verizon should be able to offer a tablet with a display of, say, 11 inches, rather than the 9.7-inch display the iPad boasts. It might not be so noticeable at first glance, but that extra screen real estate will make using the device a bit more rewarding. The entire tech industry is moving toward bigger and better displays. Tablets shouldn't go the other way.

8. A
USB port

The most glaring omission from the iPad is a USB port. Apple offers an add-on accessory that allows users to connect USB devices to the device, but it costs $29. That's a problem. Apple is marketing the iPad as the computer users will have with them after a long day at work. They will sit on the couch, boot up the iPad and perform whatever tasks they want. But without a USB port, that's not so simple. If Google and Verizon really have designs on taking the iPad down, offering at least one USB port is a must. It might not be the most used feature, but it's worth having for those of us who do more than surf the Web and check e-mail.

9. Printing capability

Speaking of glaring omissions, the iPad doesn't allow for printing. Recently, Steve Jobs reportedly said that printing "will come" to the iPad, but he didn't provide a time frame for its launch. All we know at this point is that printing is not available on Apple's tablet and there's no telling when it will make its way to the device. Once again, Apple wants the iPad to be a netbook or lightweight notebook alternative. It can't be that without printing. Google needs to offer printing in its own tablet. It will give users more options and, perhaps most importantly, become a key feature that it can use to differentiate its product from Apple's.

10. A better Web browser

Safari on the iPad is nice, but it doesn't deliver the best browsing experience. In fact, it leaves much to be desired after prolonged use. Google could respond by offering the Chrome browser in its iPad. Although there is no way to know if Chrome would be a better option on a tablet than Safari, I'm willing to bet it would. Google has done a fine job with Chrome. It has made it abundantly clear that if it knows anything else besides search, it understands how to deliver a fine, speedy browser. It shouldn't have any trouble doing that again with its tablet. And by doing so, it will put real pressure on Apple to fix its own software.


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