Google to sell a branded tablet - Android game-changer?

Google to sell a branded tablet - Android game-changer?

Summary: Is the Google brand enough to stem the tide of tablet customers who just can't seem to get enough iPads?


The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Google will begin selling co-branded Android tablets, attempting to slow Apple's massive market share growth with the New iPad and a reduced-price iPad. Instead of getting into the OEM game, Google is expected to work with existing Android tablet-makers to market Google tablets through an online store and traditional brick and mortar retail outlets. But will it be enough to change public perceptions and get people to start purchasing Android-powered tablets instead of iPads?

Naysayers have been quick to point out the dismal failure of Google's initial efforts to sell their Nexus One smartphone direct to consumers and, as Jason Perlow noted recently, even their highest profile devices (including those from soon-to-be subsidiary Motorola) suffer from fragmentation, bloatware, and miserable update records. How will Google-branded devices (reportedly from Asus and Samsung) sold direct by Google and in retail channels (often right next to Apple devices) solve this problem that seems to be inherent in Android?

According to the WSJ article,

Google believes the current model for selling tablets is broken, said people familiar with its strategy. Google has watched as wireless carriers, who helped Android become the No. 1 mobile operating system for smartphones, have struggled to replicate that success with tablets...

...This time, however, Google won't have to worry about pairing with wireless carriers because tablets are primarily used with WiFi connections in people's homes.

The article also cited what may be a more effective strategy (one that has worked for Amazon with their Kindle Fire tablet): subsidizing the cost of the hardware sold under the Google brand. Google will also have the opportunity to heavily market the tablets and take advantage of its considerable reach online and, more recently, in traditional media, to capture potential customers and educate the market on the value of Android tablets. Unfortunately, many customers and more than a few analysts are skeptical about whether Android has any value at all in the tablet space.

I've argued for some time that Android will ultimately win the tablet wars, at least in terms of market share. Google's ability to market directly to consumers, though, is dubious at best. If it's going to keep new customers from simply defaulting to iPads, then it will be the potential for differentiation and market segmentation provided by Android and many OEMs that does it (just as it has in the smartphone wars); a Google online store won't exactly turn the market upside down.

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

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • If their support is as bad as is was for their smartphone fiasco this wont

    go well at all. But they had better bring them out quick before the W8 tablets come out and suck all the air out of the room and the subsidy had better be a kindle fire sized one. google wont be getting the amazon media buys just due to the way android consumers dont like to pay for anything so theyll have to hammer hard on the ad pushing and the personal data mining/selling.
    Johnny Vegas
    • I think you're overestimating ...

      ... the percentage of tablets bought for enterprise vs. personal use. On the personal use front, Windows8 will enter the market as another choice, not a compelling proposition (and even that will only happen if MS manages to market it better than it's marketed other things recently). On the enterprise front, I do think it'll capture a solid percentage of the companies that haven't committed to a tablet platform yet, and even more as the refresh cycles dictate that the company standard be reviewed ... but again, I just don't believe that enterprise space is anywhere near as large as the personal sales opportunity.

      And when I say that, i'm thinking globally - the figures may be more skewed toward enterprise in the U.S.
    • Well, that blows

      Or in your case, sucks. Can you perchance point to the ravening hordes of OEM's that are announcing they're building W8 tablets? Are there any juicy leaks regarding these currently mythical beasties?
  • Interesting move.

    Even though it didn't work out for the Nexus One (thanks to the carrier effect), it has a great shot at working this time. Wifi only models seem to be popular, so the carriers won't be involved.

    Detailed analysis of the tablet market -
    • Blaming the carriers is an excuse

      OEM's put out poorly designed products, and then take their sweet time patching/updating them.

      Google sits by and does nothing to help the situation.

      The only thing you can blame the carriers for is selling this junk--all the while knowing that the product has issues from day 1.

      I have yet to see Samsung release an update to fix the radio issues present in their Galaxy Nexus phone.
    • "Carrier effect" didn't kill the Nexus One

      Google's complete ineptitude with retail consumer sales did, and since the Nexus One Google destroyed the Nexus brand by caving into carriers on crapware and updates. Now they want to try again further up vertical, but it will just fail again.

      Android handsets succeed, as far as market share goes, by being cheap. The OEMs are scraping by on tiny, or [b]negative[/b] margins (cf LG). While Apple is capturing all the profits and consumer satisfaction. Google doesn't care because Android brings in a ton of data for the "The Algorithm" [b]and[/b] they still make [i]more[/i] money off iPhone users. Google's problem is that Amazon has taken their role in tablets.

      Apple owns that high-end client that wants, and is willing to pay for, style, stability, and extensive ecosystem. Amazon has managed to come in and arguably (we don't know for sure since they don't release numbers) owns that lower-end where clients will sacrifice style, stability, and extensive ecosystem for a lower cost of entry. The doesn't leave Google much wiggle room. Google Play can't touch the iTunes store in [b]any[/b] way, and it would take them years to develop Apple-esque economies of scale-so count on crappy PlayBook/Fire levels of hardware, which will still probably have a negative margin. And Amazon simply can't be beat at media serving or online sales. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

      Google's saving grace is that since they're not a technology company, they don't need to make money on technology. [b]Google is an advertising sales company[/b], so as long as they can sell advertising they're [i]in business[/i]. Given their deep pockets and even enough time, Google could develop enough market share to sell enough advertising (control of their own tablet platform does present many more opportunities) to make it worthwhile, but look at how that same basic approach has worked for Microsoft with Bing.
  • The real problem

    Nobody wants to buy a product they can not physically see before hand.

    I think the Nexus One would have sold better if they had a retail partner.
  • Chromebooks

    I don't think I've ever seen a Chromebook, what makes them think a Chrome tablet would do better?
    • Huh?

      Chrome is a completely different operating system.
  • If the Nexus series of phones is any indication

    then they will not sell.

    The author argues that Android tablets will ultimatelly win the tablet war (which is interesting as i did not know it was considered a war) and that a Google branded tablet will rise top the top.

    The reason that carriers and retailers are having a hard time selling Android tablets is obvious:

    They are not given away for free.

    The vast amount of Android based smartphone sales are attributed not to the consumers comparing the overall hardware and software package, making a choice at that point as to what is best for them, instead purchasing an inexpensive phone, and just taking the operating system that comes with it.

    Android is the operating system found on all the give-away and no contract smart phones, so it is no wonder why it has done as well as it has.

    Yet with tablets, customers are asked to spend 500 dollars or more for a tablet, which at that point in time they become more discerning, and the iPad is the clear choice over Android.

    Unless the author realizes this, his conclusions will always be incorrect.
    Tim Cook
  • another nail in apple's coffin

    This google move will wow the users and apple will starve with its own iHype unsold.
    The Linux Geek
    • i disagree

      I think Google should be more worried about Windows than Apple.
      • Don't feed the troll

        Apple is on track -- even with it's dividend, to be able to [i]buy[/i] Google outright with cash-on-hand in about two years. It's not gonna happen, but it [i]could[/i].
        x I'm tc
  • Finally getting it.

    Seems like some fandroids are finally coming to the conclusion that the tablet market is not really like the smart phone market, where carriers aggressively pushed devices on subsidized prices (or free, two-for-one deals). The majority of tablets sold are wifi tablets, which takes away the one important advantage Android makers had against the iPhone. Carriers are a non-factor with tablets.

    I've been saying for a while that it is more related to the mp3 player/ iPod market where consumers looked for the complete package of great hardware tied to great software and service, ecosystem, brand. This is why Apple is selling and why Amazon in a few months sold more than all the other Android competitors combined. Geeks know about Google the brand, the larger gen public do not in the consumer electronic space. A Google branded tablet (or Nexus) will do no better than any other Android tablets that's not forked. The ecosystem is just not on the levels as Apple's or Amazon's.
  • dream on...

    "I???ve argued for some time that Android will ultimately win the tablet wars, at least in terms of market share. "

    - good luck with this. Win 8 and iPads will make android tabs bite the dust in short time.
  • Windows 8 pressure

    Despite all of the negativity re: Windows 8 on a PC, it's quite obvious that as a tablet, Windows 8 has the potential to be far superior than ICS in terms of experience. Maybe not as customizable, but if MSFT can market the unification of Windows across form factors and with Nokia's hardware differentiation, Google is definitely feeling the short-term threat and is pivoting itself against the competition. This all good for consumers right now. 2013 may look very different than 2012 in the mobile world.
    • "Quite obvious" "far superior"?

      Just curious, can you explain why you say that? I've heard lots of arguments back and forth, but never heard quite those extremes ...
  • $$

    Reasonable quality, stability (the recently announced android 5.0 with auto update), and above all price point will determine if this will be successful. As a consumer who doesn't own a tablet (don't NEED it but would LIKE it), but would buy one if the above requirements are met, I have a definite price point. I think there are many tens of millions (perhaps hundreds if the market is worldwide) who feel the same. Price is especially relevant because it will be a market entry purchase for a product which will be (hardware-wise) obsolete in 2-3 years, thus needing a re-investment. My price points are: $200 for a 7" (must have front facing camera and USB), and $300 for a 10" (FFC and USB). Get it out there...I'll even stand in line to buy one.