Editor in Chief
- Jan 5, 2011
The internet has been abuzz lately with a lot of speculative talk about how much gloom and doom will be brought upon the Android tablet landscape if Google gets in the game with a Nexus Tablet. Most of the arguments center around the premise that Android partners like Samsung, ASUS, HTC and others are already concerned about Google's acquisition of Motorola, and what it could mean to the Android ecosystem. Furthermore, these arguments suggest that Google will basically be competing with itself in the Android landscape by directly competing with its own partners. This could eventually drive them out of the business and hurt Android's overall growth taking away its competitive edge versus Apple's iPad. One notable example comes from a CNet article in which the author had this to say,
If Google wanted to assuage its Android partners that it isn't interested in competing against them, the company is going about it completely wrong. Android tablets haven't exactly been blockbusters like Apple's iPad, but device makers have begun to make some slight progress in the area. Google getting into the business with its own so-called Nexus tablet may spark some interest in the area, but it'll come at the cost of sales to its Android partners.
I understand this viewpoint, and can actually see the reasoning behind some of the arguments made by this author and others around the web; however, after reflecting on this further, I thought I would chime in an alternate perspective. I think this argument is simply a load of "hogwash."
If you step back and look at things with a "big picture" approach, which is likely what Google is attempting to do, then you will notice a few things that many people are not considering. First, while it is true that some of Google's Android tablet partners could be mildly hurt by this at first, this affect will not last long if they tow the line. What Google is doing with their new Nexus approach is effectively "leading the pack."
Up until now, Android tablets have been primarily trying to compete directly with the iPad on features and price. With a few exceptions, this has mostly been a monumental failure, at least according to pure sales figures. The most notable "weak links" are the Motorola Xoom and Xyboard, the Toshiba Thrive, the HTC Flyer, and yes, even the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (Samsung themselves admitted that it has not been very successful). The best example of mild success has been the Asus Transformer and Transformer Prime series, but even these don't even come close to scratching the surface of iPad sales figures.
So far, the only Android tablet to come forth and put up some convincing numbers has been the Kindle Fire from Amazon, which isn't really a pure Android tablet at all. The little tab hit the ground running and blazed a trail that the other Android tabs couldn't even touch because of its Amazon ecosystem and its ultra-cheap $200 dollar price tag. Google must have been paying attention to this, and the light bulb dinged for them. Someone realized that you will not be able to compete directly with the Apple iPad on a level playing field. The device is simply too much in the public consciousness, and because of that, people find ways to justify the price of the device. Android doesn't have that brand appeal in the tablet market yet.
You can really see the "big picture" approach that Google is taking now. First, they changed the Android Market to the Google Play store (this is a move to further develop their own overall synergized ecosystem). Now, they plan on coming out with their own Nexus branded tablet at an even cheaper price point than Amazon's first offering. At first glance, it appears they are competing with their partners, but remember that they have done this before with the Nexus line of phones. It has not hampered the success of their partners at all. In fact, what they are effectively doing is "showing the way." At some point they had to see the OEMs floundering around trying to sell ridiculously priced devices, and become frustrated. They finally decided to do something about it. Basically, Google is saying, "Hey guys. What you are doing isn't working. Stop beating your head against a brick wall. Let's try this approach. Here's how to do it."
It is true that, at first, some of the OEMs will feel the crunch of this approach, and Android may even end up losing a couple partners. However, in the long run, Google has to do what is best overall for Android. As manufacturing costs come down because Google is creating forward pressure in the market, things will start to become more profitable for the OEMs even at these cheaper prices. Furthermore, Google will be building up their brand-presence in the public consciousness. Additionally, the Nexus program could help the OEMs showcase their products further. Eventually, we will likely see with Android tablets vs. Apple iPad, what we saw with the PC vs the Mac. Most consumers will ask themselves... why would I spend a lot more on that product, when I can do the same things or more with this one? Yes, you will have a niche market of die-hard Apple enthusiasts, but as Android has proven with smartphones, its dominance is ultimately inevitable.
The OEMs that stay with it will be glad they "stuck along for the ride."
Image Source: MobileMartin