Talking tech since 2003

Towards the beginning of the year the tablet-ready 3.0 version of Google’s wildly popular Android mobile operating system, dubbed “Honeycomb” ,was the bees knees in the tech industry.  So when the release finally made way into the hands of consumers back in February, a month before the official release of Apple’s second generation iPad, many thought that it would finally help to take Android to new heights in the tablet market.  Features such as the ability to support multi-core processors and applications designed for full-screen use promised to give tablet makers a solid foundation to build their devices around.  Motorola was the first manufacturer to accept this challenge, releasing the Xoom tablet in February.

Nearly eight months later some have begun to wonder just how well Honeycomb-based tablets have done in the open market.  This week TechTree calculated out that all tablet manufacturers combined have sold an estimated 1.2 million Honeycomb-based tablets.  While this is definitely a rather large number the fact of the matter is that in retrospect to the first generation iPad which hit the one-million mark 28 days after being released and the iPad 2 which neared the same point its first weekend on the market, Honeycomb’s near eight-month run on the market has simply been pathetic.

The site got their estimation by taking Larry Page’s statement that there are currently more than 135 million Android devices on the market and comparing that figure statistically to the number of large-screen displays that accessed the Android Market.  That said, their number is entirely an estimate and is sure to differ from the actual sales figures.  Nonetheless, a “more than fair” estimate would be that Honeycomb tablets have maybe hit a combine two-million sales.  Although I’d venture to say that the real number of Honeycomb tablets sold would likely be lower than the 1.2 million estimated, as tablet users would (in my mind at least) be more likely to visit the Android Market than a regular smartphone user, likely skewing the true figures from the estimation.

Whatever the number is, there’s no denying that Android tablet sales are low.  Buy why is this?

This is a question that I asked myself back in May, and one that I ultimately answered by saying that Google (the developer of the Android software) and hardware manufacturers missed their mark to develop a tablet to one-up the iPad on the one-year time period between the first and second releases.  Really, all of the players behind the Android scene knew the exact hardware specifications and features of the first generation iPad, and just by looking at Apple’s traditional release schedule knew that they surely had several months (what turned out to be a year) to produce and sell something better.  But they didn’t, and ultimately made it easy for Apple to re-seucre the market the second Steve Jobs got up before his audience to announce the iPad 2.

Moreover, as much as I hate to put Google and Microsoft in the same picture, I honestly think that Android is going through the same issue that Microsoft is in terms of convincing developers to develop mobile applications for their operating systems.  After all, it has become incredibly evident in the last year or so that companies devote more effort to pushing out iOS applications for their products than they do with Android or Windows Mobile operating systems simply because the return on investment is better.  And in turn this ultimately re-enforces Apple’s long-time dominance when it comes to the selection of “apps” available for its platform.

Last but not least, even though Android tablets haven’t enough features alone to give the iPad family a run for its money, why haven’t Android tablet manufactures been able to give Apple products a run for their…money?  In terms of cost, it really does seem silly to buy an Android tablet right now when the devices cost about the same price as iPad tablets yet do not have the popularity or application support to given them an edge.  When looking at a statement I made about the BlackBerry PlayBook earlier this year, I can’t help but feel the same way for Android now;

Now, as a consumer, let’s say you have $499 (plus taxes and fees and whatnot) in your pocket and are shopping around for a tablet.  If you were deciding between the BlackBerry PlayBook and the Apple iPad – both the same price, mind you – which one would you pick?  For most people, there’s no denying that the answer would be the iPad.

Honestly it saddens me a bit that Android hasn’t taken off in the tablet industry, but right now I almost think it’s a lost cause.  What do you think?  Let us know in the comments!

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