[Opinion] Google has Lost the Tablet Market, and it’s Too Late!

Posted Oct 01, 2012 at 3:22 pm in Threads > Opinions

Ya’ll aren’t going to like this post. Sorry.

The very first Android tablets that one could purchase were terrible no-namer tablets from Chinese companies putting a 320MHz processor with what seemed like 64kB of RAM into a cheap plastic box and sold it as a tablet. However, the first Android tablets that really count started with the Xoom, Galaxy Tab, and even the earlier-released Viewsonic GTablet (one of the first “modern” Android tablets, complete with Tegra 2 and all sorts of other neat features). All of these tablets had some things in common and some other things that were very different. They all had respectable hardware inside them, though with some differences. The Galaxy Tab and GTablet came with Gingerbread, which was incredibly unpleasant on a large screen. The Xoom had Honeycomb and, 10 months later, received a software update to enable the rest of the hardware. All of them were ultimately flops.

Tablet Market Share (June '12)

What’s changed since then? Not a ton. There have been about 300 newer tablets that have all been fairly lackluster in performance. We’ve had some very innovative tablets like the ASUS Transformer series and their (my favorite in concept) PadFone tablet, but they’ve seen very limited success. In fact, as of June of this year, Apple claims to own 68% of the market. While there are *some* non-Android tablets out there, we can essentially say the other 32% belongs to Android tablets.

Now, we’ve also seen some products that you can’t ignore the success of. For example, we have the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire. Both of these tablets have sold very well. And the new line of Kindle Fires appear to become pretty popular. However, for this discussion, you really can’t count the Kindle Fire. Why? Because Amazon has stripped nearly everything Google out of the tablet and that results in mostly a Google loss. Amazon claims to have 22% of the market. If you go with these numbers (Google hasn’t argued about them), that leaves a pathetic 10% of the market left for the countless Android tablets that have been released over the years. Even if you say these numbers are off and DOUBLE Google’s share, that’s only 20%. That is NOT a win.

But maybe Google can do better! Right? To be frank, I don’t think so. Google has been at this for years now and this is as far as they’ve gotten with the iPad being the only real competitor (sorry HP and Blackberry). While Apple is a formidable opponent, Google has really had it easy so far because the market is about to change in a very big way. Microsoft is about to jump into the tablet industry and you better bet they’ll make a splash!

Windows 8 Tablets are about to flood the market. Whether you think Windows tablets are good or not, they WILL cut into Android’s marketshare. Right now, Windows essentially has 0% of the market so they have nowhere to go but up.

With the overall lackluster tablet performance that Android has consistently had for years, MANY people will be willing to go with a Windows tablet instead of an Android tablet. A lot of the iPad users will too.

However, the Win8 tablets that will be hitting the market in the next month aren’t the largest concern that Google will have. Why? Because the majority of people see both Android tablets and this first batch of “Windows RT Tablets” as gadgety toys. They simply are not powerful tools, or at least aren’t used that way. However, the second round of Windows 8 Tablets will be what really hurts the Android tablet ecosystem. The reason for this is because people will start overwhelmingly buying those instead of laptops because they really can replace laptops, running normal Windows apps and having a full keyboard dock, yet they’ll also replace the desire to get an Android tablet because, well, it does gadgety toy and media stuff to!

One of the not-quite-success stories that we Android fans love the idea of is the Transformer line of tablets. But you know what? Asus is going to do the same thing in a very big way using Windows 8 with 11″, 13″, and 14″ screen options ranging from Atom to i7 processors, having 4GB RAM, SSD and traditional hard drive options, all in a Transformer line for Windows (link). So for all you Windows people out there, would you really prefer a Transformer with Android or a Transformer with full-blown Windows on it? For you Linux people, you better damn well bet that you’ll be able to get Linux on these machines since they are, after all, commodity hardware. So wouldn’t you rather have full blown Ubuntu (or whatever distro) on there instead of Android? Or at least dual-boot it? I really don’t see Linux in any pleasant way on our current Transformers or any other tablets because, frankly, ARM doesn’t play very well with an OS like that.

I’m sorry to spill this unpleasant prediction here but I’m really, very, thoroughly disappointed with Google’s failure to succeed in this market. They even said nearly a year ago that they were going to double-down in order to win this market. Sure, the Nexus 7 was a great device. You can even call it a successful device. But a single successful device does not this market win. And Google’s time has ran out now. They have officially lost this Tablet market until they can re-invent what they do in this market. Sure, it can still happen. But no evolutionary advancement of Android will get them there. They need something revolutionary. And Chromium is not it either. Sorry, Google. I wish you could have won.