How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 3: Market watch

How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 3: Market watch

Summary: What's on your tablet? For the perfect Android tablet, you need the real Android Market.

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Continuing our series on the perfect Android tablet (tm), this latest entry is about software instead of hardware. Software applications will either make your tablet into a useful addition to your digital life, or an expensive ingredient in some eco-unfriendly compost pile. Finding the right software is crucial, and for that reason the number three feature on the perfect tablet is:

#3: Full Google software suite including the Android Market

Many recently announced Android tablets come with an alternative application stores such as AppsLib, GetJar, SlideME, or AndAppStore. Alternate markets are good to have for applications that are not allowed, for one reason or another, on Google's mainstream Android capital-M Market. However, it's the Market that has 100K+ applications and it's the Market that is both the de facto and de jure center of the Android development universe.

For a one-time fee of $25, developers can get a publisher's account on the Market and upload their free or paid applications. The Market is fraught with problems, such as tons of spam, a stingy 325-character limit on descriptions, and a woefully lacking list of supported countries. Google has been ever-so-slowly improving the Market over the last couple of years, for example by adding the amazingly innovative ability to post screenshots (insert sarcasm here). The fact that it's flawed, though, doesn't change the crucially important role of the Market in the Android ecosystem.

As a developer, I want to submit my application to one place and have it reach all users. I can do that with the iPhone, so why not on Android? (Of course Apple brooks no alternatives on the iPhone, so it's not a fair comparison, but still there should be a default market that covers everyone.) Each additional place I have to publish is another place I have to make a publishing agreement with, keep up to date for each upgrade, and manage for marketing. More potential users with less friction for the developer equals more income and more interest in creating exciting games and applications.

Perhaps the greatest impediment to the universal Market is a somewhat nebulous list of restrictions and requirements that Google imposes which limits what types of devices can and can't have the Market and other Google apps. Some of the restrictions I can understand, like requiring an accelerometer. Others make no sense, such as the need to include a telephone (with its requisite expensive monthly fee). Google needs to change these rules ASAP or at least show some flexibility to accommodate devices (such as as the 5 announced this week from Archos) that aren't smartphones.

Along with the Market, the perfect tablet should have all the other parts of Google's Android suite, including GMail, Maps, Navigation, Search, and so forth. The apps should either be pre-installed or available for download through the Market. This does not preclude a vendor from using, say, Bing search and Yahoo Mail by default to differentiate their offering. But Google's suite is pretty good, and I ought to be able to use it if I want without having to search the fine print for the words, "with Google".

See all the articles in the "Perfect Android Tablet" series:

  1. Long lasting battery
  2. Capacitive multi-touch
  3. Android Market and friends
  4. High resolution
  5. Low price

What would you build into *your* perfect Android tablet? Share your thoughts in the comment area below. And check back next week to find out what's next on my list.

Topics: Laptops, Android, Google, Hardware, Mobility, Tablets

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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16 comments
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  • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 3: Market watch

    As you know, all Archos Android devices support the full Google Marketplace without any problems. All you have to do is find the appropriate application .apk on http://forum.archosfans.com usually called "market4archos.apk" and transfer it to the device using USB and then simply click on it from the file browser and it asks you for your Google username and password to install the full Google Marketplace. It is as easy as installing Adobe Flash/PDF .exe file on a Windows PC. Do you say a Windows PC does not support PDF/Flash if that doesn't come pre-installed for some licencing reason with Adobe?

    The Google Marketplace is none other than a simple .apk Android application and Android is built in a way that it is not possible to block the installation of any .apk Android app. So there is no way for Google to prevent Archos Android tablet users from figuring out the way to install the full Google Marketplace on their devices.
    charbax@...
    • You just don't get it do you....

      @charbax@...
      THINK consumer. Nobody wants to do what you just laid out. At least the vast majority of potential customers that is. Sure some geeks and tech heads will and can do this kind of stuff but the the MAJORITY of potential customers out there what you described is a pain in the blank.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
      • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 3: Market watch

        @James Quinn - Why are you yelling at him, Jim? It is Google's fault these things don't have the Market, he is just presenting a way around it.

        Besides, you can just go to the developer's website and download the .apk most of the time anyway. It downloads and installs just like it does on a Windows machine (don't know about Mac, you can answer that) so until Google relents and allows the Market on non-phone devices, you can get around it.

        And before you ask "how will they know what they want?", just do a quick search for 'android apps' and a bunch of review sites pop up with thousands of reviews and links to the apps.

        By the way, did you ever break down and buy an iPad?
        babyboomer57
    • That's not a real option, here's why

      I investigated this a bit. Here are some links concerning the market4archos.apk app, also known as the "market hack".<br><br><a href="http://forum.archosfans.com/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=29833" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://forum.archosfans.com/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=29833</a><br><a href="http://forum.archosfans.com/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=36719" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://forum.archosfans.com/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=36719</a><br><a href="http://forum.archosfans.com/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=36829" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://forum.archosfans.com/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=36829</a><br><br>I see a few problems with this:<br><br>- First of all, I don't think it's entirely legal. This is copyrighted code (not part of open sourced Android) being distributed without the author's permission.<br><br>- Second, from the threads I examined, installing it and getting it to work isn't always foolproof. I saw somebody asking how to get paid apps and didn't see an answer. I saw complaints of corrupted downloads. And so forth.<br><br>- Maybe I'm paranoid but I don't trust software downloaded from random places like rapidshare and megaupload. I'd rather get it from official places like archos.com or google.com.<br><br>- The link is to an Archos fan site, and Archos isn't the only maker of tablets. Maybe it will work on other tablets and maybe it won't, I don't know.<br><br>- Finally, that's just the Market. I want other Google apps too, like GMail. And I don't want to hunt around on questionable download sites to find them.
      Ed Burnette
  • You mean the Perfect Google Ad vehicle.

    What you're really describing is a device that will service Google ads in the most efficient way possible. Uh, no thanks. I'd rather pay Apple up front rather than let Google pimp me out for free.
    matthew_maurice
    • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 3: Market watch

      @matthew_maurice

      Ads are the result. It is the perfect Google Spy vehicle. Put ALL your life on Google. It will cost you big.
      jorjitop
    • Where's the beef?

      I don't see any Google ads in my Android Gmail application. I don't see any on my home screen. I don't see any in Navigation. Where are all these ads you're afraid of?
      Ed Burnette
  • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 3: Market watch

    The key question to me if that if I have a Droid X, and a laptop, why do I need a tablet? It can't replace either device very well.

    Alan
    http://mailVU.com
    BallantyneGuy
    • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 3: Market watch

      @BallantyneGuy IF a slate sized device came cheap enough and performed the following functions.<br>IR & bluetooth universal remote<br>Remote desktop wirelessly to my computer<br>smartstylus to use as a drawing tablet<br>completely opensource<br>runs more than 4 hours on full power consumption<br>is less than a pound<br>has some form of eink functionality for extremely low power mode, reading email etc...<br>costs around $150<br>does NOT need<br>fast CPU (cause I have a laptop)<br>a really high res screen (cause I have a laptop)<br><br>All I need to be able to do with it is read email and websites and remote control things (computer, tv, router, etc...) thats what I want a slate for. (drawing tablet functionality would be cool too, I really don't know why one isn't being marketed yet, the watcom ones are rediculously expensive and more quality than I need)

      oh, and waterproof would be nice too... for reading in the bathtub :-P
      shadfurman
    • Who needs a tablet?

      I can't speak to why *you* need one but I can tell you why I need one. Well, not really "need" but it's nice to have.

      There are times and places where I don't want to or can't lug a laptop. For example, on the sofa, or in a waiting room or in the carpool line at school. That's when either a smartphone or tablet comes in handy.

      However, web browsing normal sites on a 4" screen with 800x480 resolution is kind of painful. I mean, you can look up movie listings but you wouldn't want to read ZDNet with it, at least you wouldn't before we had a mobile version. A larger screen with higher resolution is great for web browsing.

      Some games with busy screens like a Civilization type game or certain Solitaire variants are also much better on a bigger, higher res screen, but you don't need a keyboard or DVD drive or x86 compatible higher powered CPU with a fan and a low battery life to play it.
      Ed Burnette
  • ads

    The ads are where you have always seen them, on the google search page. No one complains about them on their windows computer or IPhone, not sure why you are on your Android.
    quentinjs
  • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 3: Market watch

    You are right, Ed, the tablet needs the Market. I have been hearing rumors lately that Google is going to create a special market for tablets, but cannot verify it. Let's hope so.

    I have no doubt that the reason we are not seeing real iPad competitors so far is for exactly this reason. However, didn't Motorola just buy out a company that will allow them to create their own market, and say KMA to Google? I am sure that is exactly what they plan to do with it.

    In the mean time, all of the apps I have looked at in the Market have websites you can go to and download the .apk's. It isn't any more difficult than installing a program on Windows or whatever from the internet. As soon as the file finishes downloading Android asks you what you want to do with it.

    I hear where you are coming from, and I agree, but Google wants control over Android to make as much money as possible. Maybe the OS is free, but like you said, the proprietary parts of Google Android are copyrighted, and you can't just do what you want with them. Maybe Google should allow the Market on tablets for a flat fee per unit? I think $5 or even $10 would be worth it for the convenience, on a $150+ device that doesn't seem outrageous to me. Just a thought.
    babyboomer57
    • Not all apps

      Not all apps have downloadable apk's from their web site. Mine don't for example. And apps that are not free don't (not counting pirate sites).

      Motorola has their own store for the Chinese and Latin American market called Shop4Apps.

      A special Market for tablets would be a mistake. One market is plenty. It already has filtering rules where you can say, for example, don't list my app if the user's device does not have a phone or does not have an accelerometer or does not have a large screen. So in theory you should only see the apps that work on your device.

      Google is asking people to set those flags now, but human nature being what it is I don't think people will really do it until there are devices with the Market that don't have features that the app needs, and they start getting complaints about it showing up in the market on a device that it won't run on.

      See: http://android-developers.blogspot.com/2010/09/brace-for-future.html
      Ed Burnette
      • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 3: Market watch

        @Ed Burnette-<br><br>I know not ALL dev sites have their apps online, but most do and even the paying ones sometimes have a 'buy now' button just like I do for my Windows Apps.<br><br>Droid-Life says they got confirmation on the next version (after 3.0) of Android coming from Google called 'Honeycomb' will be directed specifically at tablets. Let's just hope it doesn't take too much longer to get it out there. Google is really being a tyrant as far as I am concerned with the whole Market availability thing. <br><br>I just saw a post on ZDNet very recently saying that Motorola bought out a relatively new app market company. I don't remember the name of it, but the whole post was about wondering what they were going to do with it, and I personally think it will be for Tablet Apps. You may think it will be a mistake, but I am not so sure. Some devs may not want to develop for tiny screens and large screens too. Pick your poison, they say.<br><br>Whatever happens, I will be watching closely. I want a good Windows based tablet to verify my touch-friendly apps on, but would like to have an Android based one as well. The newly announced Viewsonic dual boot may get my vote when it is released.
        babyboomer57
  • Put iOS on it.

    That would be a start;-)
    Bruizer
  • RE: How to build the perfect Android tablet, part 3: Market watch

    The perfect tablet would be a tablet with a touch operated OS a browser and the ability to load applications. No other applications, just the ability to load them. A clean slate as it were.
    hayneiii@...