Android tablet manufacturers need a change of strategy if they are going to capitalise on the trend of people swapping their PCs for tablets.
Increasing numbers of consumers are buying tablets instead of PCs, with Apple iPads and Android slates accounting for about one fifth of PC sales during the fourth quarter of 2011 according to figures compiled by Enders Analysis.
But the dawn of the post-PC world isn’t going to make life easier for Android makers struggling to catch up with the iPad, according to Benedict Evans, mobile platform specialist with Enders Analysis. He argues that both high end and low end Android slates could struggle to provide attractive alternatives to the PC - or the iPad.
For high end Android tablets the shadow of Apple's iPad will loom large, according to Evans. ”The $500 Android tablet has a problem...you are the same price [as the iPad] and you don’t have the content proposition and you don’t have the good user interface, so you don’t sell,” he told TechRepublic UK at the recent Intellect Annual Regent Conference in London.
As for the budget range of Android tablets, Evans said that in general they lack the features or performance that consumers expect of a PC-replacement device.
Not only will their limited capabilities deter buyers, but the low price of budget tablets will be less of a draw if consumers are looking for a computing device to replace their PC, rather than a secondary device to complement their PC.
”If you are choosing between a $500 PC and a $500 tablet then the fact that you can get something else for $100 becomes less appealing,” he said.
Evans predicts that budget Android tablets could sell “a few tens of millions” in emerging markets this year but that “the more attractive market this year will be to replace the PC with a great premium experience”, and that Android tablets may struggle gain a foothold, while Apple’s likely release of an iPad 3 in March will increase the pressure again.
So here’s a couple of suggestions from me as to what needs to happen if the next generation of Android tablets really want to compete.
1. Google should use its acquisition of Motorola Mobility to build a high end Android tablet optimised to deliver the best possible experience to the user. Tying the Android OS and tablet hardware together, as well as providing a clear spec for apps and the OS to be developed against, could produce a tablet that is every bit as intuitive to use as the iPad.
Utilising its new in-house hardware manufacturing capabilities would also allow Google to get premium and competitive Android tablets, with the latest version of the OS, out in double quick time.
2. There are thousands of businesses that could use tablets that don’t need the capabilities of a fully-fledged iPad.
For instance a restaurant chain that wants to provide an interactive menu to its customers or a hotel looking for a new way for guests to interact with the concierge.
In both examples the tablet only needs to carry out a limited number of tasks – a use-case that is well-suited to a low-cost, stripped back tablet device, something Android can deliver easily.
Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.