Vendors promised we'd be awash in Android-powered tablets this year; what's the holdup?
Remember "The Abyss," the James Cameron sci-fi movie with Ed Harris and aliens living deep in our oceans? In it (at least in the Special Edition) the aliens generate gigantic waves that race towards the shoreline. They crest, towering over coastal city skyscrapers, poised to wash away mankind…and then they stop, the curled lips of the waves hovering above the cities, while the aliens give mankind a chance to redeem himself.
I feel like we're in that same kind of frozen moment with regard to Android tablets. Last winter, at CES and other shows, we saw an incoming tsunami of Android tablets about to wash over us and change the face of computing. Here it is six months later and that tsunami still hangs over us. A few drops have fallen, such as the Dell Streak (apparently coming to AT&T any day now) and the Velocity Micro Cruz (due in August according to Engadget) but for the most part quality Android tablets have failed to materialize. Yesterday comes word that HP has abandoned the Android version of its Slate and promising tablets like the Notion Ink Adam have been delayed until at least November.
Back in April when I bought an iPad I was really second guessing myself. I wanted a tablet, but my ultimate desire is to have a slick, responsive Android tablet and I thought that if I just held off a month or two there'd be several available as iPad alternatives. Three months later there's still nothing that comes close to the functionality of the iPad available, and nothing indicates there will be much before September or October. In the meanwhile, the iPad becomes more and more entrenched as the tablet to beat.
I don't have any inside information on why it's apparently harder than expected to bring a good Android tablet to market. I've heard rumors that nVidia's Tegra 2 chip has had problems (several of the delayed/canceled tablets were based on it) and in the case of the Adam that the Pixel Qi screen is slowing things down. But these are just rumors. If there's one coherent reason that all these devices seem to be taking longer than expected, I haven't heard it.
I suppose the bright side is that the delay is giving the Android App Market time to mature, so when we finally do get quality Android tablets there'll be plenty of AAA class apps to run on them. It seems like every day brings a new 'big' app announcement (yesterday was Ignition's LogMeIn for Android, for instance) and Google's announcement and limited release earlier this week of Android App Inventor means (hopefully) more enthusiastic app developers jumping into the developer pool.
The NY Times called 2010 "The Year of the Tablet" but so far, 2010 has been the Year of the iPad. We still have five and a half months for that to change, and hopefully by the end of the year manufacturers will have swamped us in a tsunami of Android tablets in all kinds of shapes and sizes. The tablet computing experience has been everything I hoped it would be, but in order for the format to thrive we need a variety of products to choose from, and I'm not talking about the difference between a 16 GB and a 32 GB iPad. I'm talking about meaningful choice.