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A little over a year ago, Apple unveiled the iPad; a powerful (for the time) tablet computer that allowed users to stay connected, productive, and entertained whilst on the go.  And while many people voiced skepticism towards the product in the very beginning, the wild success of the iPad has been very well documented over the past year; a fact that neither Apple enthusiasts or skeptics can debate.  For Apple, I think the iPad was a bit of a gamble in the sense that the company ventured into what was an uncharted market without knowing exactly how their move would pan out.

Now, a year later, Apple has sold nearly fifteen million iPad units – making it entirely obvious that this “gamble” was a very successful one, and a big home-run for the company.  However, now that the iPad (and the tablet computer market in general) has proven to be a goldmine for electronics manufacturers, 2011 is sure to bring a great deal of competition to the iPad.  With Google’s Android mobile operating system putting up against Apple’s iPhone OS and handset for market dominance, the company also seems to be making a move to make Android a viable player in the tablet wars that we are going to see unfold in the coming months.

The upcoming 3.0 version of the Android OS – better known as “Honeycomb” – looks to be gaining the momentum needed to become an attractive option for new tablet hardware.  While the next generation of the mobile OS will still be compatible with existing Android applications and will still be used for smartphones, a preview of the new OS yesterday also shows Google’s new focus on tablet-sized applications as well; opening the door for many new possibilities.

So now we have to pose the question.  Could Honeycomb be Google’s “in”  to the tablet market?  Sure there are Android-powered tablets on the market as it stands, but I honestly don’t see anything promising in the current offerings.  Having said that, all of the Android tablets that I have seen thus far looked – to me – to be mere iPad knockoffs that didn’t bring anything new to the table.  With Honeycomb being aimed more towards tablet devices than any previous Android OS, though, I can easily see this changing in the future as the “rough edges” are cleared up and Android becomes more natively designed for tablet use.

You see, Google is in the exact same position with Android that Apple was in with the iPhone OS last year.  Both were extremely successful in the mobile industry, and both had a great level of name recognition and consumer faith.  This is ultimately one of the reasons that I feel the iOS-sporting iPad did so well; simply because it had a well-known and well-trusted backbone.  Now that Android is beginning to steal the spotlight more and more, it only makes sense for Google to head into the tablet market as well – especially after witnessing Apple’s success.

Unlike the iPad, however, Google is going for a more “full-blown” tablet OS that would theoretically look, feel, and perform much more like a desktop operating system.  Looking at the screenshot below, you can see that the layout of the Android tablet looks more desktop-like than its competition; ultimately making it stand out from the iPad.

At the end of the day, I have to draw what may be a somewhat unexpected conclusion.  While Android OS is becoming more “tablet-friendly” and opening up more doors, that is really the only thing that it has in common with the iOS and iPad.  With this in mind, Apple has, thus far, aimed at making the iOS a very user-friendly operating system for casual use on mobile devices.  Android, on the other hand, seems to be focused more highly on becoming a flat-out desktop OS on a tablet computer.  And to be perfectly honest, even though I think both OS’s have their niche audiences, I don’t think that Android’s involvement in tablets down the road will have a significant impact on Apple’s iPad simply because they are two entirely different products.


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