It's Way Too Early to Pronounce the Tablet Wars Over
Mobile World Congress ended a few days ago, and while there was plenty of news out of the conference concerning tablet devices running the open source Android mobile OS, there are also plenty of people who have already ceded the tablet market to Apple, based on the enormous early success of the iPad. They argue that Apple has a pre-existing ecosystem of applications and users familiar with iOS, creating huge barriers to entry. The thing is, though, that's what everyone said about the opportunity for Android on smartphones. They said that it arrived too late, and that Apple's iPhone would run away with the whole market. They were wrong, and many people are wrong about the opportunity for new tablets, too.
The iPad has become a cultural phenomenon. Just this weekend I was reading an interview with comedian Chris Rock in Esquire, where he was calling the iPad his "office," and he sounded like he uses it at the exclusion of all other devices except probably a phone. At Mobile World Congress, many iPad competitors were shown, some running the Honeycomb version of Android. PCMag liked some of the Android tablets seen at the conference, but lots of people have ceded the tablet market to Apple.
What you have to remember is that Android itself provides the best example of how rapidly a competitor to the iPad could be taken very seriously. As recently as March of 2009, everyone was questioning why there weren't more smartphones running Android, including us. And what happened before March of 2009? Mobile World Congress did. This is the conference where everyone decides what is going to succeed and fail each year on the mobile front, but in 2009, people who saw few Android phones and pronounced Android dead were dead wrong. Android is flourishing.
It will flourish in the tablet market as well, especially as applications mature for Android tablets. It's not hard to find naysayers when it comes to Android tablets, but it's entirely likely that Android will see an upswing on tablets similar to the surprise upswing it saw on smartphones. Just give these tablets time.