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Does Google Care that Android Fragmentation Is Going to Spoil The Tablet/Slate Game?



Say what you want about the debate about open (Android) vs closed (iOS). Pick a side, desecrate a dictionary, throw another Gingerbread man in the oven. Say what you want about the merits, or lack thereof, of having Android available in all of its flavors for Tablet manufacturers to choose from. It really doesn’t matter to most folks who might be shopping at Walgreens or any other outlet when they see a $99.99 priced Tablet for sale as they are picking up their prescription. Heck, you can send an exec out to say that all versions of the Android operating system currently available aren’t meant for Tablets and Slates, so wait until next year. Apparently it doesn’t matter, even if Steve Jobs mentions that same fact in one of his rants against Google.

But it should. Or at least I think so. I think Google should make it matter for its own good. By allowing all of these Tablet/Slates to pop up with Android 1.6 or even 2.x, Google is creating a potential consumer backlash situation when it comes to Tablets and Slates.

Roll the clock back just a little bit to the big disruption of Netbooks. When Netbooks first burst on the scene they weren’t running Windows. Android was just a twinkle in somebody’s eye at the time. Those Netbooks were running Linux and the prevailing sentiment then was that this was going to finally hit Microsoft where it hurt, in the sale of Windows licenses. But something happened along the way. Consumers bought those early Netbooks in droves and by many accounts, quite a few of those Linux based Netbooks got returned. That opened the door for Microsoft to get back into the game and become the dominant Netbook OS. Remember that Netbooks made it into places like CVS back then too.

I just don’t think that as cute as the desert labeling is for Google’s Android evolution that most consumers are going to pay attention. And as the picture shows, most manufacturers aren’t going to bother making a distinction when they don’t have to. The copy on the Walgreen’s site cleverly makes it look like you can use the Android Marketplace, when those in the know, know that isn’t the case. But there are fewer of those in the know than there are general consumers. Those consumers are going to see $99.99 and that’s about it. Android on Tablets and Slates runs the risk of getting thought of as cheap and not worth it even at that price.

I could be wrong here and the always fickle market could ignore the potential problem I see. Apple is already starting to position Google’s laissez faire approach to this to Cupertino’s benefit. Like it or not, Apple knows how to market to its advantage better than Google does. But I’m not worried about the battle between Google and Apple. The bigger issue is that Google’s approach could lead to a lot of consumers being turned off to the whole Tablet/Slate game, in an environment that is still trying to figure out how to market these things.



  1. Anonymous

    10/27/2010 at 1:59 pm

    I don’t think there’s going to be any splashback against Android because of these things. They’re going to be identified more as iPad knockoffs than Android devices. This could make iPads look more “real deal” but the splashback against Android should be minimal. Most people don’t even identify their Android phones as running Android. On the news last night, they promoted their mobile features on iPhone and DROID. Android doesn’t mean anything to non-geeks.

  2. Rob

    10/27/2010 at 2:14 pm

    I think android tablets will drive demand for ipads , like sumocat says, being perceived as knock-offs or me-too devices that just don’t give the user any benefit

  3. Rob

    10/27/2010 at 2:14 pm

    I think android tablets will drive demand for ipads , like sumocat says, being perceived as knock-offs or me-too devices that just don’t give the user any benefit

    • Anonymous

      10/27/2010 at 2:25 pm

      I think you guys are making my point.

  4. Mistawha

    10/27/2010 at 2:43 pm

    You do realize google has stated since version 1.6 that there OS is not ready for tablets and developers should hold off. This should be redirected to developers who dont care and are trying to cash in on androids success. Btw, windows does the same thing. I know several people still running windows xp sp2. As long as youstick with forward compatibility your fine. And iphone is seeing fragmentation the more phones it puts out. Guy next to me is running 4.0 ios on a 3g. Its called user choice which no os can get pass unless they force updates.

  5. GTaylor

    10/27/2010 at 2:59 pm

    It seems to me that the history of computer technology has always maintained three constants.
    First, keep customer’s needs following and not leading product development.
    Second, in order to maintain the first constant, keep the press and the advertising focused on the competition between the alternative manufacturers and their alternative products and away from how well the customer’s needs are being met.
    Third, to maintain the second constant- fragment the marketplace and keep it like that.
    I can’t think of a single development in the fields of computing, information services, or telecommunications, that has not followed this pattern. We are such dupes.

  6. Hungry4Froyo

    10/27/2010 at 7:12 pm

    How do you propose Google avoid Android fragmentation? Aren’t the tallest hurdles Google faces in rolling out updates the various hardware configs and custom UIs on Android devices? And isn’t that variety just a result of Google getting as large an Android footprint as possible?

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, if you ask me.

    • GTaylor

      11/11/2010 at 8:49 pm

      You Know how at your favorite online app vending machine there are dozens of apps that do exactly the same thing (except for the icon color is different) and there are thousands of apps that seem to do nothing even remotely useful at all? That is marketing offering you choice. You will buy it because it is your choice. No product at all can be sold and it will be bought as long as it is a choice. Real and useful products are fragmented into itsy bitsy pieces of many hues and sold as compatible products to suit your “style”.
      How can fragmentation be avoided the hungry choice one asks? Simple, direct, functional, products that lack useless personal style features. Yeah, real boring, but real functional.

  7. Josh Gilman

    10/28/2010 at 3:40 pm

    “me too”. Not really…because if the tablet can do everything and more straight out of the box (USB verizon wireless mobile card anyone?) with a camera, etc…and allows them to watch Youtube, serve as an e-reader, etc…there is definitely a ‘benefit’ here. For the average user who would buy a tablet, they may not care about “Android”, but they also certainly don’t care about the advanced features that on an iPad and are just as obscure to them as what version of Android they’re running. They won’t know what they’re missing…because they never wanted it in the first place.

    This is a silly article that may as well be asking “will the Toyota brake issue spoil the car sales game”. Of course not.

  8. savagemike

    10/29/2010 at 12:35 am

    I don’t know, I think you guys are identifying most of the buying public as a group I do not encounter much at all.
    That being people who know who/what apple is and perceive them as quality but yet are not geeky enough to consider android version in a purchase.
    Most people I know either buy blindly with little idea of what is what.
    Or – they have a family geek or friend geek that they run such stuff by before buying.
    Or – they are geek.

    I know some people who are sort of quasi middle in there who might buy and ipad based upon iphone and ipod popularity and widespread usage.
    But they would not consider android anyway, as they would just buy the ‘apple’ brand.
    The interaction would be…
    Buyer “So this is like iphone but bigger right, and I can do all kinds of computer stuff on it?”
    Clerk ” Yes, pretty much. You just can’t make phone calls.”
    Buyer, “Right – yes… Ok.. I’ll take that.”

    Other than those people they will buy whatever they see in a sales flyer (apple or android) and be confused by it and soon put it aside.
    Or – they will ask the freind/family geek before purchase.

  9. Thehotrod

    10/30/2010 at 12:57 pm

    so I don’t understand. This Walgreens tablet says it can access the app store. What do you mean it can not access the app store??

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