Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being "just as good" as iPad?

Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being "just as good" as iPad?

Summary: In the tablet game, Google needs to make sure that the Honeycomb experience just as good as iPad - and even better in some metrics.

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The Google executives were still on stage at the Android Honeycomb event yesterday when a reader of our live coverage chimed in to respond to some chatter about Honeycomb not offering anything to make it better than the iPad. His comment was simple but it stuck with me. He wrote:

If it's as good and not Apple, I'm fine with it.

Clearly, this reader isn't a big Apple fan - so he has other motivations. But that got me thinking about whether the Motorola Xoom - the first tablet to be powered by Android 3 (aka Honeycomb) - needs to actually be better than the iPad. Is "just as good" enough?

After all, being "just as good" as the iPhone is how I initially saw Android smartphones. Don't get me wrong. The iPhone is an amazing product and one that I wanted desperately - but wasn't willing to do the AT&T thing. Now, I'm a big fan of the Android OS and have no desire to switch to the iPhone, regardless of which carrier it's on. Never do I feel like I'm compromising my smartphone user experience because my device is powered by Android instead of Apple's iOS.

Now that we're moving into tablets, it needs to play out the same way. Google needed to make sure that the Honeycomb experience would be just as good as the iPad experience - and from what I've seen it is. And, based on some of my own personal metrics, it's actually better.

Flash is still a big deal. Android tablets will run Flash while iPad doesn't. And as much as Steve Jobs wants all of us to hate Flash as much as he does, it really does make me stop and pause. Flash exists in my world and I can't just not have it - especially in a tablet.

The same goes for expandable storage. I never liked that Apple prices its devices - all of them - based on storage capacity. I love the microSD card in my Android phone - that's where I store my music and photos. And with Xoom coming in with 32 GB of internal storage and the ability to expand to 32 GB more, it's a one-up over the iPad.

Still, none of that matters if Google and partners don't get the pricing right.

We still don't have any pricing information for the Xoom. If Google or the partners don't come in lower than the iPad, then it's going to be an incredibly tough sell. If this experience is the same and the pricing is the same, then they've just handed the people who were on the fence over to team Apple. After all, the iPad is already a proven winner. Why would anyone pay the same money for a crapshoot that might or might not live up to the hype? I cannot overstate this: Pricing is key.

Certainly, the forthcoming release of iPad2 will be something to watch, especially if there are significant changes to the device or software. But if Google can build a following with tablets the way it has with smartphones, it can be go head-to-head with Apple - forcing both companies to compete on innovation, as well as pricing.

And when that happens, the consumers - all of us - are the ones who win.

Topics: iPad, Apple, Google, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

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  • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

    It is rare that I think this about a zdnet blogger but you are exactly right. I really hope that we don't get stuck with a bunch of carrier subsidized tablets with no real option to buy outright. When you are talking price, that is the real key. If someone can give us a $400-500 Honeycomb tablet with no contract, I am on board and I think a lot of others will be too. I also think more expensive higher end tablets in the $600 range will sell if someone can produce the Evo of tablets.
    redhaven
    • Any word on Cisco group VPN support in Honeycomb?

      @rdaleypa

      Without that, it's not even close to being as useful as an iPad.
      croberts
      • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

        @croberts I'm not sure about the Motorola Xoom, but this is one example of VPN support on an Android based "Tablet-Like," product.

        http://www.knowyourcell.com/samsung/samsung-galaxy-tab/galaxy-tab-guides/588219/how_to_set_up_vpn_on_the_samsung_galaxy_tab.html
        The_Omega_Man
    • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

      @rdaleypa
      Using the price range of the iPad is the wrong way to go.
      Target mid-range; about the same as the 32gb wifi model for the basic tablet. SD expansion is an option and marketing gimmee.
      Then you go up from that price point depending on additional feature or options that are added.

      While I paid 500 for my iPad, I would pay more for a Honeycomb tablet as it has more/better hardware - this may change based on the pricing for the iPad 2 depending on its options...
      rhonin
      • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

        @zenwalker I think that strategy would be doomed to low sales. It would do well with the tech savvy crowd such as around here but the average consumer is going focus on price, not the spec sheet that probably won't have much if any real affect on their use of the device.
        non-biased
    • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

      @rdaleypa

      congrats sam... one of the best articles i have ever read - no arguments, no amendments and no complaints. You are reading my mind!

      as far as money, I paid $800 canadian for my iPad and returned it the next day for complete lack of functionality. I can't wait to get a Xoom and start playing with it and my new motorola Atrix I am getting in a few weeks... I don't mind paying a few extra bucks for a vastly superior product. I cant see the iPad2 competing - apple innovates, they don't compete. When something better comes along to knock them down to single digit market share they just innovate something new.

      That is apple's place in the world and I appreciate them for it.
      ShayneNeal
  • Flash as the killer feature

    It'll be interesting to see how well Flash runs on Xoom. The experience with Android phones is that, while Flash runs, it does not run well enough to be used outside a few flash sites carefully optimised for mobile. Engaget concluded that Flash was not a killer feature on Android phones.
    The Star King
    • I have had no issues with it!

      @The Star King every site I have been to with Flash on my Android worked well, with that said I don't play Flash Games.

      Now if seeing a blank page or a notice saying this media cannot be played or even a note saying so, or something needs flash to be played is okay with you then by all means it isn't a big deal...

      To me, being able to see most things on the Web is a huge Deal and it is a big advantage of Android!
      slickjim
      • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

        @Peter Perry That's interesting. I must say, Steve Jobs' excuses are looking increasingly thin. The engadget article I was thinking of is

        http://www.engadget.com/2010/05/20/android-2-2-froyo-beta-hands-on-flash-10-1-wifi-hotspots-an/

        with the quote:

        "Adobe's pre-vetted list of Flash-enabled sites do a good job of showing off the technology, .... As for video, the stream is good quality but gets fairly choppy -- especially when you check out something "not optimized for mobile viewing." Some of the HTML5 footage we've seen via the same device shows up in crisper detail and fluidity."

        Have you noticed any problem with battery life when viewing a lot of flash?
        The Star King
      • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

        @Peter Perry

        It is extremely rare to see that on iOS devices.
        alsobannedfromzdnet
      • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

        @Peter Perry Another engadget quote:

        "The Tab's Flash capability is a nice fallback, but if you've been thinking it's the killer tablet app you should think again"

        http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/01/samsung-galaxy-tab-review/

        Just one man's opinion of course!
        The Star King
      • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

        @The Star King no, the battery has not been a big issue for me but I go watch a video or navigate a flash site without any issues...

        Again, I do not play flash games so I cannot speak to how they work on these devices.
        slickjim
      • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

        @alsobannedfromzdnet I get these issues between 10 and 20% of the time on my wife's iPad... I get issues maybe 1% of the time on my Incredible...

        No this isn't as huge as 85% but there is a noticeable difference... In fact, if something won't load on the iPad it usually will on the Incredible.
        slickjim
      • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

        @The Star King
        I use flash extensively on my Nexus One with little to no battery impact.
        The only issue I have run into is theta some flash games will not properly format on a mobile device or the game site insist on reverting to a mobile format instead of the flash enabled main page.
        rhonin
    • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

      @The Star King
      Go play Samorost on a Nexus One, and then tell me Flash doesn't run well. Go ahead, I'll wait.
      Droid101
      • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

        @Droid101 I see you are still waiting. Guess Star King didn't care about the game, flash or both ;-)
        non-biased
  • In a word, yes.

    "Just as good" is enough. In addition, "just as good" is a subjective concept. Just as good for me may not be just as good for you. Also, price is a component of "just as good". Unless Google and the HW makers really screw up, they can do the same in the tablet market as they are doing in the smart phone market. Jobs' obsession with "closed" and "control" is shutting him out of a long term dominant market position, just like it did a long time ago.
    Economister
    • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

      @Economister Just like Linux was "just as good" as Windows?
      The Star King
      • For those who choose to use it,......

        @The Star King

        such as my son, clearly, yes. He dual boots Vista and Ubuntu on his notebook, but clearly prefers Ubuntu. For him it is clearly not only good enough, but better.
        Economister
      • RE: Can Honeycomb tablets gain ground by being

        Economister - that story about your son just gave Steve Balmer some serious heartburn!
        MSFTWorshipper