Daniel Eran Dilger
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Why Apple can’t be too worried about Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets taking away iPad sales: Part 3

The Honeycomb tablet

Daniel Eran Dilger
Listen to giddy Android enthusiasts and you might get the impression that the next tablet-centric version of Google’s Android platform, named 3.0 Honeycomb, is about to destroy iPad sales. They’re wrong, here’s why, part three.

Part 3: The Honeycomb tablet

In the course of just over a year, Android has moved from a scrappy upstart known only amongst nerds to being a broadly licensed platform that a sizable percentage of the tech savvy population has heard of. This is something, but really only puts Android into the same bucket as Linux, Windows Mobile, Flash Lite, Java, and Symbian. Oh, and PlaysForSure.

Realistically looking at the future prospects for Honeycomb tablets requires uttering some additional, unpleasant memes that those who are hot to trot for Honeycomb are not going to like. Android in general, and the tablet-centric Honeycomb release in particular, share far more in common with three Microsoft platforms than anything from Apple. Those platforms are Tablet PC, Windows CE, and PlaysForSure. Honeycomb proponents get really angry when I point this out because the truth stings like a bee.

It is indisputable that Tablet PC, Windows CE, and PlaysForSure were all abject failures. It took many years for those who believed in them to accept this, because on the surface all three seemed like such good ideas. All three were widely-licensed platforms made available to any hardware makers who wanted to use them, and they all found wide enthusiastic adoption from the same hardware makers now touting Honeycomb tablets, including Motorola, Samsung, Toshiba, LG, Acer, and Asus.

Like Google’s Honeycomb, Microsoft’s Tablet PC, Windows CE and PlaysForSure all promised to unleash the creative strengths of individual hardware makers while providing a commonality that would attract buyers with its familiarity and branding. PlaysForSure in particular also supported the idea of “open” media stores, allowing users to buy music and video from multiple sources. The only real difference that Google offers is that its platform software offers fewer restrictions and doesn’t cost anything. But it also delivers less to makers, who are expected to do more of their own platform integration work.

Android proponents keep repeating an “open choice” marketing line as an indisputable inevitability of the market as if Microsoft didn’t already provide a decade and a half of concrete evidence to the contrary, first with Windows CE, then in the parallel and overlapping experiment of Tablet PC, and then with PlaysForSure, the culmination of Microsoft’s attempts to focus Windows CE at a very specific market for media players, much like Android 3.0 is being focused to deliver tablets. If we need another example, we can rope in Windows Mobile, the primary destination of Windows CE. It too failed, despite trumpeting a very Android-like message about broadly licensed platforms in the smartphone world.

The Spectacular Failure of WinCE and Windows Mobile

Why Apple can’t be too worried about Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets taking away iPad sales: Part 1
Why Apple can’t be too worried about Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets taking away iPad sales: Part 2
Why Apple can’t be too worried about Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets taking away iPad sales: Part 3

So you have to ask yourself why

As Android’s previous versions clearly attest, manufacturers are not really all that excited about being turned into commodity hardware makers on one hand, and are also apparently inept at extending Android in unique ways that do not also create serious platform fractionalization problems or just poor products on the other. The only notable Android tablets to arrive have been Dell’s Streak and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, both of which demonstrate how utterly lost these hardware makers are without Google telling them exactly what to do. This isn’t without precedent in the worlds of Microsoft’s broadly licensed platforms either.

Google faced the same frustrations with its Android herd of hardware makers in the smartphone business. Licensed Android phones with layers of divergent UI conventions and bundled junkware got so out of hand that Google created the Nexus One to demonstrate to phone makers how to build a phone that served Google’s purposes most directly. While the Nexus One didn’t even last for six months before being discontinued, it is still the only model during the Year of Android to manage to keep itself updated with the latest release of the OS in a prompt fashion. Remind you of anything? (Hint: Zune).

The messiness of Android is worse, not better, than the stricter licensing programs Microsoft managed in hopes of shepherding new generations of tablets, phones, and media players. One only has to look at the ultimate result of PlaysForSure to see the future of Honeycomb: Microsoft was so angry with what it saw as the incompetence of its store partners and hardware licensees that it abandoned both and began work on the Zune instead. Microsoft similarly tried to turn Windows Mobile into a Zune-like product not dependent upon partners and their foibles in delivering KIN, but that device fared even worse than the Zune or the Nexus One.

One has to think, if Google and Microsoft are both so bad at delivering controlled product packages like KIN, Zune, and Nexus, what qualifies them to manage the entire industry’s products on a conceptual, platform level?

Microsoft frets Google’s Nexus One will suffer Zune’s failure
Pink Danger leaks from Microsoft’s Windows Phone

Two more views on the matter

Conversely, we also have examples of pretty good products that vendors tried to turn into broadly licensed platforms with similarly drastic consequences. Apple’s early 90s efforts to license the Mac OS and Newton OS were both flops, as were Palm’s attempts to spread its Palm Pilot DNA across other hardware makers, such as its Clie partnership with Sony. One could also include BeOS and 3DO in this bucket of licensing failures.

Now take a look at things from a third perspective: companies with pretty good products who went down in flames after they began licensing other vendors’ platforms. Sony is a stellar example, shifting from the definitive high end consumer electronics brand of the 80s into the failed licensee of Windows, Palm, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Android, BeOS and PlaysForSure. Motorola, Samsung and Toshiba have all been similarly run over while trying to jump on the broadly licensed platform bandwagon, over and over again.

On the other hand, we have one good example of a broadly licensed platform that worked out well: Windows. It worked out well for Microsoft at least, leaving a series of dead PC brands in its wake as Microsoft skimmed off all the value of the top of the market: Amstrad, AT&T, Atari, Commodore, Compaq, Digital, Epson, Gateway, IBM, Kaypro, Motorola, NEC, Olivetti, RCA, Sanyo, Sharp, Tandy, TI, Xerox, and Zenith to name but a few failed licensees of Windows. Of the top five PC makers today, at least one has survived from the 80s having never licensed Windows, offering a counterpoint to the outlying data point backing the notion that broadly licensed platforms are inherently successful and fated to fall into place.

Newton Lessons for Apple’s New Platform
The Egregious Incompetence of Palm
Origins: Why the iPhone is ARM, and isn’t Symbian

Soon, Xoom = Zune

After experiencing the brutal kickback of firing off Nexus One, Google does not seem eager to launch its own tablet hardware in the model of Microsoft’s PlaysForSure-killer Zune. Instead, it has been demonstrating Honeycomb on Motorola’s curiously named Xoom, which is just too reminiscent of Microsoft’s three generations of Zune failure to conceivably be intentional, yet too obvious to offer any explanation of how it could possibly have emerged from planning level discussions. Imagine Chevy launching a new car named the Edsal, or Pepsi having an epiphany to begin selling “New Pepsi” in a bid to woo young buyers.

Xoom isn’t just a poorly considered moniker however. Everything about its design suggests that Motorola approached the product with the exact same thought process that Microsoft employed in delivering the Zune. Neither company looked at the market and contemplated what sort of device might cause consumers to throw their cash at them in trade; instead, both are clearly efforts to simply produce an Apple clone with one or two features Apple didn’t include, and to subtract a few it did. Without, of course, giving much thought to how much value they were adding and subtracting by doing so.

The value of the iPad comes from its familiarity to iPhone balanced with its extra boost in sophistication delivered by its full screen and expanded user interface conventions. While initially derided as “just a big iPod touch,” the iPad is really a rather complete rethinking about how to deliver an iPhone-like simplicity on a larger palette.

Apple intentionally left out complicating factors such as a split between apps and widgets. It minimized the “chrome” of the UI down to nearly nothing to create an operating environment where apps themselves steal the show. Without apps, the iPad is actually pretty boring, like a bank pad of paper waiting to be applied in some way with a pen or pencil.

The inside track on Apple’s tablet: a history of tablet computing

Killer complexity

Google and Motorola happened upon this winning product and decided to make some serious changes. Instead of being a simple, almost blank canvas for third party apps, Google designed a complex user environment (perhaps derived in part from elements of the 3D BumpTop startup it acquired last spring and then scuttled) with two strips of standardized controls across the top and bottom, as if it were trying to be Windows and Mac OS X at once. Launching and moving between apps isn’t a simple matter of touching icons, but rather something that can be accomplished in as many different ways as you can view Control Panels in Windows XP.

You can drop apps on the desktop as simple buttons, but you can also resort to a drop down menu or simply leave open applet-like widgets that take up a tiny portion of the screen. Switching between apps isn’t managed by a Home button double click and swiping though icons graphically, but by pulling up mini-representations of each running app, a desktop-like convention Apple was certainly aware of how to accomplish, but specifically chose not to implement for the iOS. Was this just an effort by Apple to dumb down the interface to cater to people who couldn’t be bothered to learn a sophisticated array of new interface conventions? Yes.

If the world wanted a complex maelstrom of interface sophistication, it would have embraced NeXTSTEP rather than the hokey simplicity of Windows 3.1. If mainstream users had clamored for shadows and translucency and the marvels of an undulating user interface, Mac OS X would have been far more popular than the Fisher Price UI of Windows XP. PC users certainly didn’t respond appreciatively to Microsoft’s efforts to make Windows Vista more glossy and busy than Mac OS X had been, much to Microsoft’s surprise. Users also picked the iPod over the complexity of PlaysForSure and the Zune, the iPhone over Windows Mobile, and iPad over Tablet PCs, and before that, Palm Pilot over Newton.

We don’t really have many examples of a complex user interface blowing away a simpler one that’s easier to use. Our cars are designed to be driven by the most distracted of halfwits rather than looking like airplane cockpits. Google has already gotten a taste of how well its nerdy complexity will attract users with Google TV, which has not gotten a fraction of the love of simpler devices such as Tivo, which anyone can figure out how to use on a basic level in less than a minute.

In fact, the only place where complex, techie user interfaces are really popular are within video games aimed at a demographic of 13-25 year old boys. When you’re selling $800 hardware appliances, you don’t really want to target your product at young men whose disposable income is already dedicated to buying replacement Xbox 360s and upgrading their PC’s video card and Android phone every three months. Sure, there are some affluent men between 25 and 30 who also enjoy this sort of thing, but they all work at Google already.

Apple doesn’t design simple user interfaces because it lacks the brains to introduce sloppy layers of complexity, but because it has studied how people use things and wants to sell its products to the widest possible audience. Microsoft started to clue into this very slowly as it strived to copy the iPod and iPhone. Zune is simpler overall that Microsofts usual products, and Windows Phone 7 is so simplistic that its top licensee refers to it as being “boring.”

Perhaps that’s going to far on the simple meter. With iOS devices, Apple makes overall usability very simple, and leaves an open canvas available to its app developers. That results in a wide range of choices for consumers, who can decide for themselves if they want to stick with basic functionality or install a lot of complex apps.

Apple TV challenge from Google falls flat in 2010
LG: WP7 falls short as carriers tire of “too much Android”

The Big Screen Dilemma

Motorola can largely blame the Tron-like interface of Honeycomb upon Google. Like the newly remade movie, I think Honeycomb will be interesting for about 80% of two hours, then leave people wanting something a little more original with a point, rather than just a transient, pretty experience that bumps ahead a franchise a lot of people have warm feelings about. It’s hard to regret a $15 ticket to Tron (maybe once you factor in the concessions), but I can’t see how people are going to be satisfied with an $800 toy that has no apps. Perhaps I’ll be wrong on that front, because I’m not always spot-on in knowing what people will like. I was also surprised the iPad sold as well as it did.

Motorola made some interesting decisions of its own on the Xoom, however, and I feel more qualified to talk about how wise those were. It has a screen slightly larger than the size of an iPad, making it the first major Android tablet that isn’t in the 5 to 7 inch range that Steve Jobs said would be DOA on the market for being unable to deliver an interface that beats a smartphone in practical usability (because no tablet can beat a smartphone in portability, so they have to offer something more to make up for their bulk). It appears Motorola agrees with that sentiment. The problem, as Jobs also alluded to, is that using a full screen drives up the price.

An entry level price of $800 is very high for a non-Apple device. Remember that while Apple can sell its MacBooks starting at $1000, its competitors have no option but to begin selling their netbooks and notebooks at much lower prices in the sub-$500 range. Even Apple recognized that it couldn’t sell the iPad unless it hit aggressively low pricing. Consumers know that prices are supposed to go down each year, not inflate by 60 percent via the wonders of free and open software. And so Jobs was right: Android tableteers are going to have to decide between trying to offer cheap devices that aren’t big enough to be more than an oversized smartphone (“a big iPod touch” as they used to say) or full sized devices that are too expensive for the market.

Motorola Xoom featured in ad packed with Apple references
Motorola’s history of tablets shows remarkable ignorance

Big Specs

At the core of the Xoom is the Nvidia Tegra 2, a chip that delivers great graphics, 1080p video, and offers a generational leap over last year’s A4, Snapdragon and the original Tegra. We heard a lot about how Tegra was going to blow Apple away before, in connection with the Zune HD, a product nobody has talked about since a few months after its launch, just like the LG Prada, the BlackBerry Storm, the Palm Pre, HP Slate PC, WP7 and so on. In looking back across three decades of computing history, I can’t recall any computing platform driven ahead by a fancy chip rather than a sufficient amount of software applications.

Xoom has a lot things the iPad has: an ambient light sensor, accelerometer, compass, 3G, WiFi and BlueTooth. It also has some things the iPhone 4 has but iPad lacks: a gyroscope, a front facing camera (that’s better than iPhone 4’s), a rear camera and a proximity sensor (so you can hold it up to your face, apparently).

It also has something unique: a barometer for sensing air pressure (hmm) and a HDMI port (something that’s necessary to get HD video off the device for remote playback, if you don’t have something like AirPlay to do so wirelessly). The Xoom also has a gigabyte of RAM, four times as much as iPad, and twice the amount in iPhone 4 and expected in iPad 2. That’s necessary because Android doesn’t manage available RAM as well as iOS.

These are all interesting decisions to make because Apple has already installed a certain bar of expectations, the most difficult of which to limbo under being the iPad’s price. Motorola isn’t still in 2009, safely protected from direct competition from Apple due to the technical differences of Verizon’s network. It’s not going to be exclusively backed by one of America’s twin mega-carriers. And initially, it will be only available on Verizon, the company that is currently selling the iPad and is expected to get a Verizon-only iPad 2 version with integrated CDMA support.

The hardware decisions Motorola made on the Xoom do not seem to be reflecting the reality of the limited window of opportunity still open to iPad competitors, which simply stated, is very cheap or special purpose devices.

From OLED to Tegra: Five Myths of the Zune HD

Consumption Junction, What’s Your Function?

One of the more desperate complaints invented against iPad was that it was purely a “consumption” device incapable of real manly productivity work. Never mind that iPad is the only tablet capable of running a real office suite (Microsoft’s Tablet PC and Office divisions fought long and hard to avoid providing something similar a decade earlier), or that there’s all manner of text editing, drawing, image editing, turntable spinning, keyboard playing apps for iPad that aren’t around for any other tablet.

The whole “consumption” nonsense thrown at the iPad failed to stick, but how does the same complaints hit the Xoom, which uses a widescreen display aimed more at watching movies than actually serving as a more serious canvas for productivity apps? It seems as if critics of the iPad are still trying to suggest that it’s not serious enough, while picking up more toylike devices and getting lost in wondrous amazement of how great they can play back movies.

In the smartphone world, Android began to start selling devices in late 2009, a year or two after Apple established the App Store. We were assured that the balance of developers’ attentions would shift toward Android as its installed base grew. But that didn’t happen and hasn’t happened.

There’s a few reasons, ranging from fragmentation (about half of all active Android users are not on the latest API level OS revision, and can’t upgrade because carriers and makers aren’t rolling out update packages and the “you can install your own updates because its an open OS” claim is proving to be an outright lie) to Google’s poor stewardship of Android Market (a discouraging pile of junk similar to shopping at Ross) to the simple fact that people who are attracted to cheap phones are also unlikely to be interested in buying a lot of apps.

It’s hard to see how Android 3.0 Honeycomb is going to change this situation for tablets. Rather than evolving Android apps into a bigger, more capable form factor, Google launched what is really a completely new API and experience, requiring more work from developers to make original tablet apps, and requiring smartphone users who are familiar with Android smartphones to adapt to an entirely new user environment. Even Microsoft knew better than to make its Tablet PCs a completely unfamiliar experience apart from Windows.

Microsoft may have gone too far in trying to shoehorn Windows conventions into its mobile products (looking at you, WiMo Start Menu), but it doesn’t seem that Microsoft’s failure with Windows CE, Tablet PC and PlaysForSure was due to the lack of a radially new interface. Instead, those platforms all died due to integration issues between the hardware and software vendor, a lack of practical applications, high prices, and poor design decisions regarding feature sets. What Apple has gotten right with the iPad is its tight overall integration, a focus on third party apps, simple usability, very competitive pricing, and a design aimed at practical features (battery life, sufficient screen real estate, fluid performance) at the expense of frilly nonsense.

It’s not just Motorola that doesn’t seem to grasp what people really want. Toshiba is making what appears to be a Xoom-clone, and we have promises from Samsung, Asus and Acer, and other makers to build what appear to be functionally identical devices designed to run Android 3.0 Honeycomb. The core problem is that none of these are undercutting the iPad on price, matching its performance, or providing extremely attractive features that might make consumers want to pay half again as much for a device that has no apps and runs a first generation software revision that can only be more buggy than Android on smartphones (and don’t be fooled, Android is a frustratingly buggy experience on smartphones, even after two years of updates).

Those who believe Google is keeping Apple on its toes and keeping it competitive may be giving the search giant too much credit. When Google sucks it up and delivers an Android 3.x release that works on half the hardware requirements of the iPad, enabling far cheaper devices with compelling features and spawning a real market for apps that are exclusive to the platform, then Apple will have some competitive threat to drive it to lower prices and offer new functionality. We’re certainly not any where near there yet.

  • Pingback: Why Apple can’t be too worried about Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets taking away iPad sales: Part 2 — RoughlyDrafted Magazine()

  • http://www.torusoft.com chrismarriott

    Android represents the status quo. Like you’ve pointed out many times, Dan, Android was created to drive traffic to Google’s ads – not to be the world’s best phone platform. It’s not going to be responsible for creating new, seemingly impossible technologies or features.

    It just can’t. Because every Android hardware manufacturer has abdicated their efforts in building mobile operating systems. They’ve left it up to Google, a company that doesn’t know a thing about creating consumer electronics or appliances, to do the work for them.

    I just wrote about what I call embracing the impossible – something that Apple has built its existence on: http://www.torusoft.com/users/torusoft/

    Apple is selling zillions of phones and tablets because they’ve created technology so useful and well designed that we take it for granted. Before the iPhone, who would have thought smart phones could be like they are now? I have no faith in companies that allow others to do their R&D essentially for free. Motorola, HTC, Sony, and the others aren’t going to create the next impossible piece of tech. Apple is and until someone steps up to the plate, platforms like Android won’t amount to significant competition.

    Remember, Apple’s making more money than anybody else in the mobile business by an order of magnitude. Unit sales are one thing, but affording to spend cash on R&D is completely another. Good luck to Google and MS competing with what Apple has baking in its labs.

  • http://tladb.wordpress.com/ tladb

    Just a small correction.

    “Amstrad, AT&T, Atari, Commodore, Compaq, Digital, Epson, Gateway, IBM, Kaypro, Motorola, NEC, Olivetti, RCA, Sanyo, Sharp, Tandy, TI, Xerox, and Zenith to name but a few failed licensees of Windows”

    Amstrad, Commodore, Atari, had their own operating systems and did not use windows. They generally failed in the MS-DOS era.

    [I was thinking all three made some efforts to license Windows at some point, but I can’t find evidence now. If not, they do serve as evidence that its hard to compete against a monoculture… but not impossible as Apple has shown. – Dan]

  • Richard

    Commodore and Amstrad did try to sell IBM compatible MS DOS machines…. Saw both of them in Germany in the old days

    Atari however didn’t license MS stuff


  • http://www.yale.edu/chinesemac/index.html TenThousandThings

    Great stuff, as usual. Perhaps I missed it, but I didn’t see any passing mention of where the HP TouchPad fits into all this — the announcement today was “summer” so there is time, but on the surface at least, their announced line of webOS devices seem to come closest to the Apple model. Is it possible HP hasn’t screwed up the development of webOS beyond Palm?

  • Ludor

    Well color me fanboy, but this post was about the best you’ve done this winter, Daniel. A great read.

    I think a major part of your analysis borders on philosophy (it probably sounds silly to you, but I can’t make a better translation from my world at the moment). I know of no other blog that produces such good results in trying to describe how the user experience – the good and the bad – is created.

    Incidentally, doesn’t WP7 really look a lot like those b&w icon themes that you can tack on default OS X folders? I remember thinking from the very beginning how the Metro UI comes across as some design student’s bachelor project.

  • John E

    Honeycomb is indeed too complicated. just like Google TV. it’s the old feature creep/bells and whistles lack of discipline. Google’s mantra has always been to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. but that can backfire.

    Apple would be very wrong, tho, to rest on its laurels, as kind of inferred. the great selling point of the iPad is not just that it is a simple device, but that it simplifies our lives. and certainly there is still much room left for iPad improvement and innovation toward that purpose.

    Dan, you might address also a critical choice Google has made with Honeycomb that gets little discussion: the 16:9 form factor, compared to iPad’s (and now HP’s TouchPad) 4:3. we know why – to feature HD media, as if that is the general top priority of consumers. but it isn’t – the web and comparable info presentation/interaction within apps still is. and those work best with relatively more vertical scale than the constrained amount mandated by 16:9 in landscape mode. while its relatively greater width is not an advantage for that (desktop OS monitors are different, because there the 16:9 aspect on a physically bigger screen makes it easier to manage multiple/overlapping windows, which tablets don’t have to do). it also leaves portrait mode pretty much useless for most things, whereas 4:3 in portrait is just right for some. if this is a major Android tab OS concept design flaw – and i think it is – it could prove disastrous, because it really can’t ever be fixed without totally starting over.

  • nextguy

    “While the Nexus One didn’t even last for six months before being discontinued,”

    Well it did live on as a developer phone, so you could still technically get it but the point still stands, it failed to do what it was made to do. The initial support for the phone sucked, so that didn’t help either.

    I wish it did, not because of Google succeeding but simply for people to ditch the current model of buying phones for what the rest of the world does. But tmobile is the only us carrier that has any sort of cheaper prices for paid phones.

    The way things look is you want the best of both worlds, jail break an iOS device. Each person is taking android and doing their thing with it, from Dell to Samsung to LG.

    The point about the tabletpc and windowsce being failures though, I just think the hardware and the price of the hardware just weren’t ready. But even so, the ipad model works better – one device for simple and the rest for the complicated stuff. Honeycomb is trying to do both, neither perhaps very well.

    But I think we agree on something here: Why is the ipad selling so well? Neither of us expected it to. There’s just a ton of overlap between all the current devices we have. Perhaps as you said, simple yet as you said more complex if you want it to be?

  • bft

    I think that part of the reason that the iPad is selling so well is that it’s the computer for people who, up until the iPad, were too stupid to be able to use a computer.

    Or too lazy to figure out how to use a computer.

    And it’s the computer they use when they’re watching TV. And talking on their mobile or iPhone at the same time.

  • mailjohannes

    “I was also surprised the iPad sold as well as it did.”

    I wasn’t.
    The iPad presents itself as a glossy magazine, and this attracts buyers as magazine publishers know. The layout, font(s) and glossy icons combined with a high quality multi-angle screen with glass finish makes it appear as designed by publishers of one of the best magazines and they know how to attract readers.
    Another point is something Apple talked about when the iPad was presented to the public. It appears to be a magic device.
    This isn’t marketing speek or commercial nonsense, the iPad is highly attractive to buyers because it has ‘magical’ properties, qualities not seen on any computer device before. The fact that hand gestures seem to immediately get a response (without a noticeable delay) and only touch is needed to control the device makes it appear highly personal and ‘as if you do the magic yourself’. This makes the iPad highly desirable.
    Combined with a set of very useful features like 10 hours battery life and highly portable characteristics and a very low price its clearly a winner.
    Why is the gloss and magic not such a big feature for the iPhone and iPod? This is simply a matter of size. The iPhone is to small to notice the magazine gloss and to small to notice the magic. You can compare it to seeing a movie on a small screen and a big screen. Part of the 3D experience and the immersive character is only visible on a big screen, but the content is the same. It’s simply the way our (visual) brain works.


  • beanie

    Daniel Eran Dilger wrote:
    “Windows Mobile…It too failed, despite trumpeting a very Android-like message about broadly licensed platforms in the smartphone world”

    Android success is spread out among many manufacturers, which is different from past OS’s. Windows Mobile was 80% HTC, though they had dozens of licensees. Symbian is probably 98%+ Nokia.

    Also, Android is a full OS, while J2ME and Flash-lite are run-times. So
    those two run-time platforms declining does not mean much.

    [Five years ago, you’d have been leaving comments saying how a potential iPhone was doomed because WiMo had so many partners. True, HTC made most of them but they were sold under different brands/carriers, so it looked like more were being made. It’s not really “better” for the platform to have more hardware competitors, especially when the makers holding up your platform are Mot/Sony Ericsson/LG and other firms who have never been able to produce “gotta have it” products. Android is identical to WiMo without the centralized control. That’s not a feature, its a problem, as is increasingly obvious.

    And you don’t really need to point out the fact that you don’t care to consider facts that don’t fit your worldview, we’re already clear on that – Dan ]

    Daniel wrote:
    “developers’ attentions would shift toward Android as its installed base grew. But that didn’t happen and hasn’t happened.”

    Oh, iPhone and Android developer interest are probably pretty even as some surveys show. Even on Dice.com, a tech job site, if you do a keyword search, both give you about the same number of hits.

    One advantage is Android can be developed on Windows, Mac and Linux. You need a Mac for iPhone development. Any plans for XCode for Windows or Linux? Also, Android uses Java syntax, while iPhone is Objective-C.

    [Mac-only dev tools have really been holding back iPhone and iPad development, haven’t they? Chorkle! If you have to resort to surveys to find interest in Android, you’re already in trouble. There’s not much barrier in saying you’ll do something. When people put money behind their decisions, you get a better sense of what they’re really ready to support – Dan ]

  • kdaeseok

    Galaxy Tab is really a great product. If this is from the utterly lost hardware makers, can’t help but thinking that the next one would be hands down outstanding…

  • sprockkets

    mailjohannes, sounds reasonable, perhaps the reason why kindle sells so much

  • gus2000

    The Xoom has a barometer? Well then, I predict that Apple will be crushed by the first competitive product to include:

    – a radar detector
    – a geiger counter
    – an infrared pyrometer
    – HD FM radio
    – X-Ray
    – Police scanner
    – Satellite radio
    – RFID reader
    – Card swiper
    – DirectTV
    – Bottle opener

    And, of course, a Zorg ZF-1.

  • harrywolf

    The barometer (air pressure sensor) could be useful in a variety of apps.
    One that springs to mind if this barometer reached the iPhone is an Altimeter.
    Nothing wrong with adding sensors – they are obviously very small and only expand App possibilities.

  • http://themacadvocate.com TheMacAdvocate

    Excellent summation to a great series, Daniel.

    I’m fascinated by manufacturers’ efforts to distinguish their offerings from “vanilla” Android with UI overlays like “Sense” and “Blur”, only to turn around and build the Nexus One and Nexus S for them and have these devices hailed as best in show. That these manufacturers don’t think they’ll cannibalize their other products makes me wonder how dumb they think consumers are.

  • counterproductive

    True, it would be fun to have all these little gadgets like barometer. But why fill up the iPad with them?

    Already, people can make stuff for the 30-pin adaptor that are barely an inch square: card-reader, video out, credit-card scanner, etc.

    But I reckon that pretty soon we will be wearing all these things and they will communicate with our iDevices via Bluetooth. The chip in the Nikes already does this. Earphones already do this. Keyboards already do this. Why not wear a little barometer in your belt buckle, or extra storage space stitched into the seam of your clothes? I’m sure people are already working on this.

  • harmonyx

    For those who don’t remember, Atari made 5 pc compatible computers in the late 80’s, the PC3, PC4,PC5, ABC and the N386 laptop. The PC5 was shipped with both msdos 5.0 and windows 3.0.

  • JohnWatkins

    What’s that red button for?

  • Mike

    Originally posted by kdaeseok:
    Galaxy Tab is really a great product. If this is from the utterly lost hardware makers, can’t help but thinking that the next one would be hands down outstanding…

    I don’t think a $600 tablet that essentially is a blown up phone is anywhere near “outstanding”. It may have its uses in niche markets, which is precisely what Dilger said might happen, but as for actually competing against the iPad, well, it completely fails. That’s not to say that the iPad has flaws of its own, but then again people are comparing the iPad to a full blown computer, while people tend to compare the Tab to either iPad or a phone, when really when it is compared to a computer, it fails completely in terms of efficiency. The iPad, OTOH, actually holds its own in many cases. The interface is simpler, it’s more complex than a phone but simpler than a computer (and this is apparent in many apps as well), while the Tab simply blows up apps to make them look bigger. It doesn’t give you added functionality for the increased screen space. Sure, there are some apps that do, particularly the ones from Samsung, but it’s not exactly the seamless experience that you would want, especially if you aren’t a tech-head that cares to manually manage their active apps and memory. And considering the Tab is $600, when most people just want a WiFi version of the iPad, it already fails to meet expectations regarding price.

    Anyway, great article Dan. It sums up nicely what’s great about tablets and what’s terrible about them. The iPad obviously strikes a balance between complexity and simplicity and does it very well. Android 3.0 seems to just go for complexity and added features. Which might be appealing on a bullet point list, but how likely are people going to pay for even higher priced tablets than the iPad? Even if they do offer a better experience in certain cases (mostly movies, because Google decided to mandate the 16:9 aspect ratio for screens, a stupid move IMHO). And people are forgetting that these next generation tablets are being compared to iPad 1st generation. Of course they will have favorable specs compared to last year’s model. The problem for these manufacturers is when the iPad 2 comes out with similar specs and a lower price, and they are sent back to the “drawing board”, sort of like the HP Slate ;)

  • http://www.yale.edu/chinesemac/index.html TenThousandThings

    If you’re going to put a barometer or other weather-related device in something, put it in my phone. It doesn’t seem terribly useful in a tablet. There’s pretty much a 100% chance that if I’m out somewhere and need the kind of information it can give me, I’ll have my phone with me. Far less likely I’ll be carrying a tablet.

  • jmfree

    Daniel: Thank you again for helping us see the future with lessons in past failure.

    I am also appreciating points made above by chrismarriott and John E about the Goog once again trying out the “strategy” of throwing things against the wall to see what sticks, even while they know nothing about consumer electronics.

    But, as I’ve commented before, they even give the impression of knowing nothing about their own core services.

    Just five minutes ago, I picked up my DroidX to call my mother’s rarely-used cell phone. A search in Contacts pulled up nothing on her. Strange. I tried three times. I got nothing, all the while knowing I have her in GMail Contacts and lots of data on her, including her license plate #, doctor’s names, etc.

    So I followed the prompt to Create A New Contact, and added just her name + one phone number, saved it, and did another search. Shazam! She suddenly shows up in the search, but this time with all the old data I’ve had for years in Contacts (and no sign of the new “contact” I had just created in her name).

    I’ve lost count of how many times this type of thing has happened with something as simple as Contacts.

    Larry Page has his hands way full, and would need ten Eric Schmidts to get this mess under control. Even by then it would be too late.

    Thus, it is undoubtedly already too late.

    The Goog may be very quietly pulling resources off Android as we speak — shrugging that is hasn’t worked out as expected — but of course without telling their mobile partners.

  • John E

    i have no idea what the barometer is for. if you want to know your elevation, map apps can easily tell you (unless you’re in a hot air balloon or coal mine). if you want to know the weather forecast, thousands of apps will tell you. what is silly, useless, do-dad.

  • kdaeseok

    Mike// I’ve been using Galaxy Tab- and it is a great product, in terms of functionality and portability.
    Tab sold 2 million in 3 months and got very good reviews from its customers.
    And this was done from a device running 2.2 and blown-up apps.

    [You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. The Tab has not sold 2 million units to users in 3 months, and has not gotten good reviews at all. It’s gotten returned. – Dan ]

  • fiverone

    No, Samsung did not sell two million tabs. They’ve put two million in channel (that means that the retailers have it in their inventory), but what they have sold, well Samsung is not saying. Also, days following, it has been reported that the return rate is 16%. Samsung is taking offense with this #, but without actual sales number, it is hard for them to counter.

    Another note, as SJ has indicated, those early adopters are going to be left behind and unsupported, which is exactly what happened, as the original Tab users will be unable to upgrade to Honeycomb. Less than 3 months after going on sale, and you know already you CAN’T upgrade to the latest Android. Just part and parcel of going with Android. Ultimately this kind of behavior impacts the brand name and set expectations on what to expect from Samsung.

    Reiterating what Daniel has written in this 3-part series, Apple has nothing to worry. Neither Google Android and it’s vendors will be able to put a cohesive attack or dent on the iPad sales. They were all were caught flat footed (again!) and Apple has taken this advantage (and leveraged it’s iTunes,iPod, and iPhones market) to continue to lead and set expectations.

  • kdaeseok

    1. sales: Okay, Samsung “shipped” 2 million in 3 months.
    2. reviews: from where I bought
    Also, check out the US amazon as well. These are what I call customer reviews.

  • fiverone

    So are you ok with spending $700+ on a product that won’t support the newest Android OS? Here in the state, you have to sign a two year contract to get that price, so with the data plan (let say $20 a month), that actually puts the cost over $1200, for something that won’t be supported beyond the Android Phone OS 2.2. I’m sure you are happy now, but will you continue to feel this way next Jan 2012?

  • kdaeseok

    I wouldn’t have bought Tab in the US. The phone function seems to be blocked over there (what’s the point of bringing a smartphone and a tablet together?) but I’d like to point out a couple of things you mentioned.

    1. Amazon sells it $599.99 on T-Mobile, $549.99 on AT&T (There are unlocked ones as well) and they came without contract. 2 year contract on T-mobile could go $249.99. So you’re wrong.
    2. It’s now 2.2. Upgrade to 2.3 is scheduled. What is being questioned is whether it’ll get 3.0, the tablet OS.
    3. I’m not sure I will be happy next Jan 2012, are you? I’ll tell you in 2012.

  • gatorguy

    No matter how Android is picked apart or ridiculed, it’s plain that it has come from relative obscurity to a viable iOS alternative in a very short period. The author is being disingenous, suggesting that he’s much less aware of mobile platforms and how they’ve developed over the past year, if he would have us believe that Android should be considered at the same stage of maturity as the 5 year old iPhone OS and thus inferior and incapable of matching it’s performance.

    [Not sure what you mean about “the same stage of maturity” between Android and iOS. If you mean both have been developing for the same amount of time, I’ll agree. Both were conceived around 2005 and began to materialize in 2007, although Google had to start over a bit to remain relevant after the unveiling of the iPhone.

    On the other hand, iOS has clearly matured faster, with more significant updates for users (which they can actually apply!) and a broader, more mature feature set (particularly in Enterprise features, but also in the handling of media, richness and maturity of app APIs, and in general fit and finish, from the UI polish to usability). Apple also deeply integrates iOS in its products, allowing it to customize things for a tailored fit on iPad, in contrast to the tablet mess on Android (2.2 not good enough, 3.0 completely foreign).

    If you’re talking about technical sophistication and maturity of the underlying frameworks, then yes, I can also agree that iOS is built upon a better foundation, borrowing from Cocoa frameworks that have been polished since 2001, and which date back to original OO NeXT concepts from the late 80s, which borrow from the genius legacy of Smalltalk from the dawn of advanced computing. Android’s platform is a newly (and significantly) modified JavaVM, and its class libraries are derived from a free Apache project. The overall quality of everything in Android reflects the cheapness Google assembled it with; it crashes frequently, most of its apps are borderline junk, and there’s no attention to detail.

    But it sounds like your main point is that Android should be given a free pass in the QA department because nobody took it seriously until late 2009, when Verizon began adopting it as its mainstream iPhone competitor. The only reason for that is that everyone else’s platform flat out failed: Windows Mobile, Symbian, BB, JavaME. There was no other alternative but Android. That doesn’t make it a good choice however, it just makes it an option, the option, for iPhone haters. Correct me if I’m wrong. – Dan ]

    It’s apparent to most that the age of Android began with the introduction of the original Droid just 16 months ago. As such even prodigious fisking by the author won’t change the endgame: Android growth has been phenomenal and will continue unabated for the foreseeable future, right alongside Apple’s iOS. Trying to make Apple look good or cover it’s flaws by belittling Android is childish. There’s plenty of room for both to grow, and grow they will regardless of bloggers opinions.

    [How am I “trying to make Apple look good” or “covering flaws”? I’m critical of the adoration and tailgate politeness afforded to Android by people who don’t know what they’re talking about, or by people who know better but are “trying to make it look good” and “covering its flaws” by belittling Apple.

    I find that most people who can’t develop an argument simply turn criticism around in a simplistic way that makes no sense, but allows them to feel like they have a point. Don’t fall into that trap. – Dan ]

  • OlsonBW

    bft – People like you are the people that liked cars before the Model T and thought they were great.

    Model T’s are just for those idiots that don’t know how to fix a badly designed car that keeps breaking down. Why don’t they learn to fix their cars?

    My analogy is very fitting and explains exactly why you couldn’t be more wrong.

    The iPad is about using a computer without it having a horrible messed up interface like most desktop computers are. Most people buy computers to create or consume. Not so that they can repair either the hardware or software.

    Imagine your TV being the same way. You want to watch and show and the badly designed software for the TV burps and you suddenly can’t watch the SuperBowl or whatever it is you wanted to watch. You wouldn’t stand for it, at least I’m assuming that you wouldn’t. Maybe it isn’t the superbowl but there is something on tv that you’d rather not miss.

    People want things that work. That’s why then went from buying American cars to Japanese cars. They didn’t have all the bells and whistles in the beginning but they were very reliable and got good gas mileage. Sounds like the iPad to me.

    PS: You would be SHOCKED at what you can create with an iPad. All you have to do is open your mind and surf the net for a big about artwork on the front cover of the NewYorker and other magazines. Photos too. Check out the videos on YouTube with people using nothing but iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads to form a band and create some pretty fun music.

    Is the iPad the limiting factor? No.

  • Pingback: Why Apple can’t be too worried about Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets taking away iPad sales: Part 1 — RoughlyDrafted Magazine()

  • gatorguy

    We’re in the first phase of tablet rollouts. There’s going to be misses. Along the way there will also be hits. Having one less than successful launch does not mean that you should quit. If Apple had taken the attitude that they should abandon ideas that don’t work out the first time there would be no iTV (Apple TV and MacTV came before it), iPad (remember Newton?), Mac’s (Lisa anyone?) or even iPhones (Motorola ROKR). Android tablets will “get there” as will those based on WM7. That the first efforts could use improvement shouldn’t be any big surprise. Afterall, what OS version is the iPhone on now? Apple obviously sees it can be done better. Android developers do to. There’s plenty of buyers lining up on both platforms for them to be successful and we haven’t even started with MS yet.

  • kdaeseok

    gatorguy// right, but there’s still no iTV, just Apple TV :)

  • gatorguy

    You’re right of course Kdaeseok. :) There actually was Apple TV before there was Apple TV.

  • gatorguy

    [ There’s not much barrier in saying you’ll do something. When people put money behind their decisions, you get a better sense of what they’re really ready to support – Dan ]

    It’s not just talk either, as I’m certain you already knew. Investors are putting money in Android developers and products. Just one example:

  • _iCeb0x_

    @gatorguy (35)

    If I worked for Google or was a shareholder, I would be very worried about Google’s Android being the next Windows…

    Now, seriously, this series of articles explain exactly why Android will not be the “next Windows”.

  • gatorguy

    I think it’s a ridiculous comment too. Successful and widely adopted. IMO, probably. As big as Windows? No way. Don’cha love hyperbole?

  • gatorguy

    LOL! Just saw this.

    gus2000 { 02.10.11 at 9:02 am }
    The Xoom has a barometer? Well then, I predict that Apple will be crushed by the first competitive product to include:

    [EDIT: for at least some Android smartphones]
    – a radar detector / qualified yes, over bluetooth
    – a geiger counter / radiation detection? Another qualified yes
    – an infrared pyrometer / not certain yet
    – HD FM radio / yes
    – X-Ray / Sorry, no
    – Police scanner / yes
    – Satellite radio / yes
    – RFID reader / yes
    – Card swiper / yes
    – DirectTV / Yes
    – Bottle opener / At least one use

    And, of course, a Zorg ZF-1. / Not a chance

    So at least 8 points outa 12. Not bad.

  • gslusher


    “I think that part of the reason that the iPad is selling so well is that it’s the computer for people who, up until the iPad, were too stupid to be able to use a computer.”

    No need to insult people, including thousands of physicians, for example. It has been adopted by major banks and other large corporations.

    Eventually, I’ll get an iPad. I guess that makes me “stupid,” as well and shows that I don’t know how to use a computer. I was so stupid that I had to settle for going to MIT and was able to earn only three degrees there. I have very limited experience with computers, having bought my first one (an Apple //c) just a short time ago, in late 1984 and my first Mac (a PowerBook 100) only yesterday, in late 1992.

  • gatorguy

    Dan I owe you an apology. Sincerely. I spent some time last evening reading thru some of your older comments, 2007 and early 2008. In 20/20 hindsight you were pretty darn accurate on your assessments of Google and even Android. I had been assuming, based on your more recent blogs, that you just didn’t “get” Android nor Google. Wrong of me to assume that, and I’m an ass for doing so without researching more. Your opinions and post were reasonably objective, until Apple decided Google was no longer a friend of theirs. Prior to that, you absolutely had an accurate finger on the mobile pulse. Perhaps the need to offer support to Apple forced a change in the way you portray both Google and Android. Only you would know that. But my comments that you just aren’t very accurate on Android projections is at least partially incorrect. It appears to me that you probably do have a much better, accurate and realistic understanding and appraisal of where the future is going and what challenge Google offers than your public writings might indicate.

    So again, I was wrong and I apologize for assuming way too much.