After playing around with the Motorola Xoom extensively for a couple of weeks, I can assure you that average consumers simply won’t be picking Android tablets over the iPad 2. It’s not a matter of specs or operating systems, it’s common sense. A lot of people are throwing around numbers and sales estimates for the Motorola Xoom and the ensuing flood of Android tablets. I think the impact of the introduction of 10-inch Android tablets will have a minimal impact on the iPad 2 this year unless some serious work is done in the UI and Android app development arenas.
My friend Sascha Pallenberg from Netbook News chatted with uber-blogger Robert Scoble about tablets at SXSW and Sascha predicts that Android tablets will take 50% of the iPad’s market share by the end of the year. I have a lot of respect for Sascha, but he’s dead wrong on this point. Geeks and Android fanboys might choose a Xoom over an iPad 2, but consumers are completely content with the iPad and iPad 2. The Motorola Xoom is a half-baked device and it’s clear that the Android tablet ecosystem is at least a year off.
Perhaps the most obvious reason people won’t buy the Xoom, 10″ Dell Streak or other Android tablet in the near future is price. If manufacturers hope to beat the iPad 2, they’re going to have to find a way to beat the iPad 2 in the price game. You can analyze Android tablet prices any way you want, but the fact remains that the iPad 2 is the cheapest tablet on the market. Introducing more WiFi-only Android tablet options may help, but the problem with that strategy is that nobody has much incentive to sell the 3G/4G-less tablets. Verizon, AT&T, Best Buy and Sprint sell tablets in order to drum up subscribers, which of course means there will be very few places selling pushing WiFi-only Android tablets.
The other major problem is that average consumers just can’t do much with a Xoom or similar device out of the box. On the other hand, iPad 2 users are overwhelmed with choices. They can choose to stream movies over Netflix, rent them in iTunes or watch all the TV shows and movies they want from Time Warner or Comcast/Xfinity. Motorola Xoom buyers can choose from a total of 16 apps designed for tablets in the Android Market.
The price differential between the iPad 2 and Android tablets is even more noticeable when consumers are going the 3G route. Android tablets require a two-year wireless contract that can cost much, much more than the tablets themselves. The iPad 2 WiFi + 3G offers month-to-month 3G service and consumers can turn the service on and off whenever they choose.
Competition is good and I do hope that the Android tablet ecosystem grows. But 2011 is not going to be the year that consumers start buying Honeycomb devices. I’ve yet to see a single Xoom out on the streets of San Francsico or Silicon Valley. The Dell Streak 10 is going to be virtually a clone of the Xoom and I don’t expect it to make any serious headway.
What do you think? Will Android tablets start eating into iPad 2′s dominating marketshare? Or is the iPad the next iPod?