Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Are Android tablets ready to take on the iPad?

The real game-changer in the tablet market is Android 4.1, known as Jelly Bean.

Do you remember April 2010? That was when the tablet market sprang to life.

Tablets had been around for more than a decade, but hardly anyone outside of certain vertical industries (utilities, for example) had noticed them. When Apple released the iPad in April 2010, everything changed.

The iPad wasn't destined for some niche market; it was an object of desire. Apple claimed that it sold 300,000 iPads on the first day that it was available. No other vendor had technology that could come close to competing with iOS on the iPad.

Many tried. There was the now largely forgotten Moblin operating system, RIM's PlayBook OS, Intel and Nokia's short-lived Meego, Chrome OS and, of course, Android, most promisingly realized in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. None of them was good enough to seriously compete with Apple, in either 2010 or 2011.

But now it's 2012, and at long last, we have a contender: Google's Nexus 7, running Android 4.1. Until now, the most successful Android tablets were actually e-readers, like Barnes & Noble's Nook and Amazon's Kindle Fire. The Nexus 7 is something much more.

While we don't have hard numbers yet, the Nexus 7 has been selling at the kind of frantic rate not seen outside of Apple devices. Thanks to Android, the Nexus 7 has certain advantages in software selection, customization possibilities and built-in apps. It also has a significant advantage in price: The Nexus 7 costs $200 less than the iPad 2.

Beyond the Nexus 7

If this were just a battle between the iPad and the Nexus 7, I wouldn't be writing this column. I happen to like both devices, and I could argue in favor of either one. I prefer the Nexus 7's smaller size, but I can certainly understand why someone else would want the larger iPad, especially with its Retina display (which, of course, makes the price difference even larger).

No, the real game-changer is Android 4.1, known as Jelly Bean, which will also power Amazon's forthcoming Kindle Fire, which will be much more than a mere e-reader, with its quad-core processor, front-facing camera, micro USB port and bigger, better display. We can also expect to see Jelly Bean in a new model of the Nook, and then the floodgates will open. I expect to see many good Android tablets with 4.1 under the hood, in sizes ranging from the now popular 7 inches to an iPad-matching 10 inches. And good or bad, all of them will be priced below the top-of-the-line iPad.

As we head toward the 2012 holiday season, I expect iPad to finally have serious competition from Android tablets. I suppose it's possible that Microsoft, with its Surface and Windows 8 tablets running on x86 processors and Windows RT tablets running on ARM processors, could be a contender as well, but I don't foresee that. Android and its various hardware vendors have just spent the past two years showing how hard it is to compete with Apple in the tablet market; Windows is too late to the game to compete in this round. It might catch up later, but right now the story is Android.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was cutting-edge and 300bps was a fast Internet connection -- and we liked it! He can be reached at sjvn@vna1.com.

Read more about operating systems in Computerworld's Operating Systems Topic Center.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?