LG raised a few eyebrows Monday when it announced that it was postponing the launch of its upcoming Android tablet. LG was positioned to be among the first major device manufacturers to release an Android tablet, but may not push one out the door until the first quarter of 2011. The iPad needs a competitor. Who's it going to be?
LG representatives explained that Android 2.2, or Froyo, was not adequately stable to power their tablet. While unstable might be a bit of a stretch (the OS is running to rave reviews on many phones), even Google has acknowledged that Android 3.0 is the best choice for tablets with many enhancements for that form factor. Ars Technica pointed out the mixed messages coming out of Mountain View, some of which suggest that Froyo isn't ready for any devices other than smartphones, while others describe workarounds to get Android working on a variety of devices, including tablets.
Gingerbread was originally rumored for release this month, but there's no sign that it's about to appear. Motorola, which is Google's launch partner for Gingerbread, also similarly put its Android tablet plans on hold in anticipation of the new version of the platform.
So now we have the iPad, selling by the millions, the RIM Playbook, selling by the, well, selling to some enterprises, and no serious Android tablets. Obviously, all parties are best served by rolling out Android tablets with a great user experience. Even mediocre Android tablets could kill the brand before it even gains any traction. However, the conspicuous absence of Android from the surprisingly large tablet market has to be making Steve Jobs a very happy guy. Whatever the naysayers might have predicted about the iPad (I certainly wasn't bullish on it), it's basically still the only game in town and has surpassed virtually all expectations in terms of popularity and adoption.
Of course, Google can't really win on this one. They were criticized for the rapid rollouts of successive versions of Android and called out on the platform fragmentation that resulted. Now they need to hustle Android 3.0 out the door to address the lack of tablets (except the super-cheap gray market tablets trickling out of China) running Android.
The tablets will come...it's inevitable. But will Android be able to capture market share from Apple with tablets in the same way they have with smartphones? Time will tell, as will, perhaps more importantly, price.