Game Over: iPad Wins, Android Loses

As the Android suffers market fragmentation, the Apple iPad is the Windows of our generation -- the dominant platform that simply can't be killed.


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The touch-tablet market is still in its cradle and already Apple has won. The iPad now has a lead so vast that it will not and cannot be dislodged from its position of dominance.

Fans of competing platforms don't want to hear this, of course.

The Google Android faction believes that -- finally! -- a real, shipping tablet-specific version of open-source Android exists, so a tsunami of iPad-killer Android devices will now quickly overwhelm and surpass the iPad. This is wishful thinking based on a false belief, an inadequate appreciation for the primacy of apps and the destructive power of platform fragmentation.

The tablet version of Android, version 3.0 (formerly known by its codename, "Honeycomb"), is neither "real," "shipping" nor "open source."

While Google bizarrely uses or doesn't use the word "beta" for marketing expediency rather than any meaningful description of development phase, "Android 3.0" is just the marketing label Google slapped on the beta version of the OS code-named "Ice Cream Sandwich," which is still months away.

The source code for Android 3.0 was withheld from public release because it wasn't finished. The software is being very selectively released to a handful of hardware partners, who have promised to keep it secret.

Software that has never been made public cannot be called "open source." It's as closed right now as Apple's iOS.

Google rushed Android 3.0 to market prematurely to enable the launch of the Motorola Xoom. They've also released it to a smattering of other developers, just like Microsoft has with Windows 8, also in closed beta. But unlike the normal process for Android, the OS has not been publicly released like previous Android builds because, according to Google itself, Android 3.0 is not finished yet.

Google made this exception with the belief that the Xoom would catapult Android tablets into the stratosphere. It's not going to happen.

Motorola sold far fewer units than previously thought, possibly as few as 25,000 or as many as 125,000. This is bad because Motorola has probably already manufactured more than 500,000 of them.

That excess inventory will be difficult to unload, because now other Android 3.0 tablets have recently entered the market (the tight network of OEMs that Google has selected to get the closed beta), including the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, Acer Iconia Tab A500, Motorola Xoom and T-Mobile G-Slate. Sony has announced two Android 3.0 tablets shipping in the Fall. And non-Android tablets will be shipping this year.

Motorola will be forced to unload all this excess inventory by insane discounts, which will create downward price pressure on the entire Android tablet market, erasing profit margins.

RIM has sold between 45,000 and 100,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets, according various estimates. It shipped April 19, and some 25,000 people pre-ordered it. The PlayBook runs a brand-new operating system called the BlackBerry Tablet OS. The company says PlayBook will be able to run Android Apps, which both removes an incentive for developers to write native PlayBook apps while simultaneously contributing to Android fragmentation.

Like Android 3.0, the PlayBook was shipped before it was ready. The device doesn't even have an e-mail app, although users can do e-mail via Gmail or other online e-mail services. Android app support has been promised for "sometime this summer."

Even the SDK that would enable developers to create PlayBook native apps has not been released. No native apps. No Android apps.

HP is shooting for summer to ship its Palm WebOS 3 TouchPad tablet. We still don't know whether the TouchPad will ship before its ready, like Android 3.0 and the PlayBook.

No Comparison

So let's contrast the state of the iPad with the non-iPad tablet universe. The iPad is now in its second year of shipping, and second generation of tablet. The iPad is very mature, stable and popular. Apple will probably sell well over 30 million of them this year.

Meanwhile, there is still no complete, "shipping," ready-for-prime-time tablet platform competitor on the market. Not one. Android 3.0 isn't finished. The BlackBerry PlayBook isn't finished. The Palm TouchPad isn't shipping.

But that stark and inexplicable truth isn't why iPad can't be touched. The elephant in the living room is apps. Where are the apps?

Why Apps Are Destiny

As Android, RIM and HP tablets slowly come online, sales will be stunted by the conspicuous absence of apps designed for these tablet platforms.

As of this writing, there are probably fewer than 200 apps created specifically for the tablet version of Android. There are zero PlayBook apps, and zero TouchPad apps.

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Tags: Android, mobile, android apps, iPhone, iphone apps

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