When better equipped (though bulkier) netbooks can be had for $250, tablet-makers need to set their sights below $200. There is just one problem: the cost of the components currently used comes to more than that. According to the market research firm iSuppli, the basic TouchPad cost Hewlett-Packard $306 to build.
At the moment, as The Economist correctly points out, Google’s strategy isn’t working either:
But the ultimate killer feature that Android and other tablets have failed to replicate is the care Apple took from the start to ensure enough iPhone applications were available that took full advantage of the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen. Today, over 90,000 of the 475,000 applications available online from Apple’s App Store fully exploit the much larger screen size. By contrast, only a paltry 300 or so of the nearly 300,000 apps for Android phones have been fully optimised for the Honeycomb version of the Android operating system developed for tablets—though many of the rest scale up with varying degrees of success.
There simply isn’t enough incentive at the moment to develop applications which fully take advantage of Honeycomb. And Google doesn’t appear to be pushing developers to do it.
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world’s largest software maker, began arguing its U.S. trade case that Android- based smartphones made by Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. use technology derived from Microsoft inventions.
In a trial that began today before the International Trade Commission in Washington, Microsoft accused Motorola Mobility of infringing seven of its patents and requested a halt to imports of certain Motorola phones. The ITC has the power to stop imports of products that violate U.S. patent rights.
Lots of people seem to have missed this in the discussion of why Google bought Motorola: Motorola’s patent pool hasn’t protected it from being sued. There’s no reason to suppose that it will protect Google (or any of its other licensees) now.
Of course, I can’t write my first post about Android without mentioning its supposed “fragmentation” problem. It is a problem, but it’s mostly blown out of proportion. Desktop developers have always had to create software that works across different OS versions, different devices and different screen sizes, so the fact that you have to do that on Android isn’t a big deal. But it is a big deal when different Android devices handle things differently – video playback and recording, for example, are challenging due to device differences, and getting video streaming to work reliably across devices feels impossible (as Netflix discovered).
Nick, I think, gets this right. Fragmentation is real, but developers deal with it.
If you want to start a flame war, post something about whether Google is truly “open” or not. Nothing in the world of technology – not even comments on the state of Steve Jobs’ health – is more likely to get people shouting at each other.
Amongst sections of the Mac community, Google gets a lot of stick over its openness. Some criticise Google for putting “open” above “usable”. Others claim that openness is nothing more than a marketing bullet point for Google, and point to its failure to release source code for Honeycomb or its total silence over the core algorithms that power search and ads.
I don’t think Google’s openness is “just” a way to mislead – I genuinely think that internally, there’s a lot of commitment to being as open as is commensurate with being a profitable company.
Some of their efforts are extremely valuable: for example, while I think WebM is crapola, it’s valuable to have a freely-licensable codec that will (hopefully) be widely supported. I doubt that MPEG-LA would have been as generous with the terms for H.264 as they are currently had Google not waved the big stick. And that’s an area where there’s little direct revenue implication for Google.
Having said that, it’s clear that at some point internally, the idea got floated that “we are open” was a good marketing point, and that’s where things began to go wrong. It’s almost impossible for a company which creates code, delivers online services, or (for that matter) makes hardware to be genuinely open. Google could never be open about its search algorithms, not simply because Bing would instantly be as good as Google but also because people would use that information to game the system.
And that’s the issue: Having invoked the magic “open” word, you’re a hostage to fortune. Any time that the rational decision is “don’t be open” (as it is, arguably, with Honeycomb’s source) sneering naysayers like me will be on your case, whacking you over the head.
“Music Beta in its current form is far from what we’d expect from a Google product— it’s a web of confusing programs without a lot of instruction as to how to actually get to the music you want to hear.”
Actually, that’s exactly what I’d expect from a new Google product.
“This mirrors the Tranformer’s success in the UK where its first three production runs have already sold out. Either Asus didn’t anticipate high demand and lowballed their stock, or the Eee Pad Transformer is the perfect example of what can happen when you mix powerful hardware, Android Honeycomb, and the right price.”
My gut feeling is that the fact that the Transformer can be effectively turned into a netbook is making it much more attractive to one segment of the audience – one that wants a tablet occasionally but otherwise wants a small, light laptop.
It also shows that the way forward for Android tablets, at least for the time being, is to try and be different from the iPad rather than just being a (slightly hokey) alternative.
“App developer interest is shifting back toward Apple as fragmentation and “tepid” interest in current Android tablets chips away at Google’s recent gains in momentum, according to a new survey of more than 2,700 developers around the world.
In the survey, 91% of developers said they were “very interested” in iPhone development, and 86% said the same for the iPad. For Google, interest in Android phone add development fell 2 points to 85%, and for tablets – particularly Honeycomb – down three points to 71%, after having risen 12 points in the first quarter. The figures are within error margins for the survey, but don’t match the growing interest that has been seen in Android over the past year.”
“The Glendale Galleria store in California sold out of all their iPad 2s within 45 minutes of opening their doors (thanks, Michael K.). According to multiple reports via Twitter, users were unable to choose the model they wanted.”
“Jefferies analyst Peter Misek on Friday argued that earnings estimates for Motorola Mobility are too high for the second quarter and 2011 because sales of the Xoom and Atrix haven’t lived up to expectations.”
“I still see this as a phase, and not a bad one. Apple and Google have together cracked open the unholy death grip that phone makers and carriers have long had on the mobile world. At some point those two halves will come completely apart.”
It seems to me that, by accident or design, Google has done precisely the opposite: Handing incumbent phone makers and carriers a tool that lets them stay in the game. Android has basically saved LG, Samsung, HTC et al from either years of development of their own OS or millions in fees to Microsoft to license Windows Phone.
It’s also handed the carriers the ability to “tailor their customer experience” (read: “install a load of useless crapware and lock their the phones tightly”), and control what applications exist on a new phones – in some cases, to lock down what you can install on your phone.
That’s the truth of “open” and Android. Android is about creating an open environment for carriers and mobile phone makers, not for end-users.
Not saying that this is bad, in the sense that Android’s existence increases consumer choice (which is always good). A world where there was only one smartphone OS wouldn’t be healthy, even if it was iOS.
But I don’t think Google deserves any credit for breaking that “unholy death grip” – that wasn’t their intention, and it’s not really in their business interests.