Apple's iPad 2 Proves That Alternative Tablet Platforms Need Developers--Now
Yesterday, Apple's iPad 2 announcement, featuring Steve Jobs, dominated the headlines almost as much as Charlie Sheen did. GigaOM's early impressions of the tablet were that first-time tablet buyers will find it to be the best choice, but many observers also pointed out that most of the enhancements in the new version were expected. And many of those observers agree that alternative tablets still have a chance. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols argues that for Android, MeeGo and WebOS, the time is now to ramp up competitive tablet platform development. That's true, especially for Android tablets.
As we recently noted, the Honeycomb version of Android that is customized for tablets is now out in a Software Development Kit (SDK), ready to appeal to developers. At yesterday's Apple iPad 2 announcement, Steve Jobs noted that there are already over 65,000 iPad applications. Jobs--well-known as a master marketeer--didn't mention that fact for nothing. He knows that a large application ecosystem is the key to winning with a hardware platform.
As we noted previously, there weren't as many Honeycomb tablets shown at the recent Mobile World Congress conference as many people had predicted, and that and other issues have caused some observers to pronounce Honeycomb a bust. But it's likely too early to make that pronouncement. PCMag likes some of the Android tablets shown at Mobile World Congress.
On the hardware side of Android tablet development, Vaughan-Nichols gets the facts right:
"First, everyone needs to go low on price. Forget about fighting it out on the high-end. Apple under Jobs has always been the premium brand. No one’s going to move them out of that spot of the market anytime in the next few years. As part of that, all the other players are going to need to get a handle on how Apple handles its supply chain. This is one area where MeeGo and webOS, since both are tied to one vendor, have a potential edge."
Indeed, with the most expensive iPad 2 going for well $829, there is an opportunity to beat Apple's pricing, but that will require sophisticated supply chain deals. Jobs' citation of the 65,000 apps for the iPad still stands out from yesterday's news, though. Alternative tablets are going to need to have a healtheir ecosystem of applications to compete effectively with the iPad, and Google and others would be wise to seed the market for application development. Just look at the success that Android is on smartphones. It can be a big success on tablets, too, but developers are needed, and they are needed now.