Android, MeeGo & WebOS need to get going on tablets: Now

Android, MeeGo & WebOS need to get going on tablets: Now

Summary: If Android, MeeGo, webOS, and yes Windows too, want to play a role in tablets, they need to make moves NOW or the iPad 2 is going to run them over.


I have a confession to make. I use Linux more than I do any other operating system by a wide margin, but I also use a lot of Apple products. In house at the moment are two Mac Minis; a MacBook Pro, a pair of iPod Touches, and, oh yes, an iPad mark 1. I know I'm not the only Linux or Windows guy who likes his Mac stuff too. In recent months I've been to both open-source and Windows tech. shows and I've seen MacBooks, iPhones and iPads everywhere. Now, with the iPad2 on the runway, if Android, MeeGo, webOS, and yes Windows too, want to play a sizable share of the tablet market, they need to make moves now or the iPad 2 is going to run them over.

First, while the iPad 2 doesn't look to me like a great upgrade over the first model of the iPad, it further extends its lead over the existing tablets. I've seen and played with, to name a few, the Motorola Xoom; the Fujitsu Stylistic Windows 7 slate; and a host of other, older Android tablets. None of them are competitive yet with the first iPad, never mind the iPad 2.

So is it game over for iPad's would-be competitors? No, but here's what I think Google, Intel, HP and Microsoft need to do to make a fight of it.

First, everyone needs to go low on price. Forget about fighting it out on the high-end. Apple under Jobs has always been the premium brand. No one's going to move them out of that spot of the market anytime in the next few years.

As part of that, all the other players are going to need to get a handle on how Apple handles its supply chain. This is one area where MeeGo and webOS, since both are tied to one vendor, have a potential edge.

Android: First, Android 2.x is fine for smartphones. I love my Droid 2 smartphone with Android 2.2. But, no version of Android 2.x works that well on full-scale tablets. Oh, certainly you can use it on a small tablets like Barnes & Noble's Nook Color, but Android 3, aka Honeycomb, needs to be out and in the hands of OEMs and developers yesterday.

Google also must clean up Android's security holes. Yes, being open is a good thing, but at least in Apple's closed software garden, there's only one throat to throttle: Apple's, if something goes wrong. At the very least, Google needs to assign quality assurance and security people to the Google App Store to make sure this kind of crap doesn't get through to customers.

It's beyond Google's control, but all the many would-be Android tablet players also need to pay close attention to design and style. Why do you think Apple keeps making billions anyway? It's not because they're the cheapest-they're never that-or always technically the best, but their devices just look and feel good. Chances are you don't have someone with Steve Jobs' design aesthetic sense, but Android OEMs have to try harder.

Once they had good-looking designs. Android vendors can also try, more easily than the others, to go cheap. If someone can manage to make a good, not great, but full-sized tablet for say $250, they've got a real chance of cleaning up the mid-range market.

MeeGo First, Nokia deserts her for that tramp Windows Phone 7, and now she has to face a new model iPad. What's an open-operating system to do? Well, MeeGo has all the problems that Android, but it also has a much smaller developer community and no OEMs to speak of since Nokia bolted. If MeeGo wants to play on tablets, and not just in in-vehicle infotainment (IVI hardware, Intel needs not only to push the software out to developers fast, it needs to start work yesterday on a great design. Good luck MeeGo, I like you, but you're going to need all the help you can get.

Page 2: [WebOS & Windows] »

WebOS & Windows

WebOS HP's webOS looks like it could be a contender, but I think HP needs to open up the operating system to attract more developers. WebOS is also Linux-based, but the good parts are proprietary software, Microsoft and Apple can get away with that in 2011, I don't much of anyone else can. I've also heard rumors that HP is going to price webOS at about iPad 2, or even higher, levels. Don't. You won't stand a chance.

Windows I bet you think I'm going to trash Microsoft again. You'd be wrong. Most people don't know it, but Microsoft, along with partners like Fujitsu, has long made very successful, albeit very vertical market tablets. The first one I ever used ran, if I recall correctly, Windows 95, and you know what? For its day, it was quite good.

Today's Windows 7 on tablets looks even better than the old one did in its day. Oh, it's no where near as nifty and user-friendly as Android, iOS, or webOS, but what it does have is the ability to be managed and secured by corporate IT departments using the usual Active Directory (AD) tools. The other mobile operating systems have nothing that's comparable to that

Microsoft could, quite easily, stay IT's preferred tablet operating system. If it wasn't for all those darn C-level executives demanding iPads… I don't know if Microsoft can make Windows 7 sexy on a tablet, but it would be a good thing for them to work on.

After all, there's a reason why most of you never knew about the Windows tablet of yesterday, people only wanted them in specific niche markets. Microsoft wasn't able to make Windows tablets a mass-market product then, and they certainly won't now with all this other competition. I have a bad feeling for Microsoft fans, as Mary Jo Foley observes, that Microsoft doesn't understand today's tablet market. Well, here's there chance to show that they do, but they, like everyone else needs to do it fast or it really will be the end for Apple's would be tablet rivals.

Topics: Software, Apple, Tablets, Operating Systems, Mobility, Microsoft, Laptops, iPad, Hardware, Windows

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  • RE: Android, MeeGo & WebOS need to get going on tablets: Now


    Great article.
    • RE: Android, MeeGo & WebOS need to get going on tablets: Now

      It is a good article and one that I enjoyed reading; however, as with so many other articles it focuses on devices and/or OSes only with little to no mention of the overall eco-system.

      My opinion, and it is just my opinion, is that the eco-system is far more important. Someone who owns an iMac, iPod and iPhone is more likely to buy an iPad than a Win7, WebOS or Android tablet. Someone with a PC, Zune and WP7 phone is more likely to buy a W7 pad than one of the others. It comes down to apps and music. If a person has purchased apps and music from eco-system then they are more likely to only buy devices compatible with that eco-system. Few will want to have to buy aps and music multiple times from multiple eco-systems eg - buying apps from an iPhone from Apple and music from MS for a Zune to then purchase an Android pad and need to purchase apps and/or music from an Android store. To me, it makes no sense.
      • Apps yes, music not so much. you have to be pretty foolish to still be

        buying drm'd music now, even if youre silly enough to be still be using itunes. meego and webos are DOA, if they arrive at all. android will have a short life until W8 takes off. 5 or 6 years from now it'll probably be 80/20 W8/ipad
        Johnny Vegas
      • RE: Android, MeeGo & WebOS need to get going on tablets: Now


        I think Apple would say that it had 9 million examples -- from last year alone -- that show that it's not just Mac users buying iPads. Windows owners are buying them, too. And Linux people, too.

        Again, millions upon millions of Windows customers use iTunes to buy music, movies, whatever. iTunes is (I believe) the biggest distributor of music in the world now. And the songs/shows from it work on consumers' PC, iPod, iPhone, iPad, AppleTV. So, in a sense, you're right: the ecosystem drives device sales. The biggest ecosystem is Apple's, so they're getting the most device sales.
      • That used to be the case...

        ... but it no longer applies, @ptorning. I had two ex managers who had Windows based tablets (one HP convertible and the other had a UMPC with stylus), both of them abandon them in frustration.

        Vertical markets aside, Windows tablets haven't garnered any significant clout, primarily because they were very poorly developed devices. Just like Windows Mobile, consumers saw no advantage to them.

        Win8 could even be worse, as it will break most compatibility with existing Windows. It might leverage the "ecosystem" (aka Zune, Office, Xbox) but might be too little for too few.
  • RE: Android, MeeGo & WebOS need to get going on tablets: Now

    Honeycomb is out to devs and OEM's as it is. And they have put it on good hardware. Its going as we speak. The problem isn't that. The problem is the price. The devices just cost to much when everybody expected them to match or undercut Apple. If you ask me the only thing stopping the non Apple faithful from running to the Xoom for instance is the price.
    • RE: Android, MeeGo & WebOS need to get going on tablets: Now

      @storm14k Ya think? What about the UI? Xoom's home screen is object lesson on wasted screen space. Or the fear of malware? Or the lack of apps? Or the bad UI choices (the calendar being the poster child here for "WTF?").<br><br>No Google need to get this sucker more fully baked. And actually maybe ChromeOS would be a better option anyway - Google do nice WebApps, if the thing can be "always connected" wouldn't that be the more "Google-ish" way to do it?<br><br>HP's webOS looks like it might be fantastic, needs more apps, but hey, it's "new". But HP need to get it out, in the worst way - otherwise they might find themselves staring down the iPad3... or at least the prospect of it (and that's probably worse as people imagine Apple's "next big thing" is going to do everything).<br><br>MeeGo? I dunno, I'd like to see it happen, but with Nokia not onboard... I dunno.

      As for RIM? So the thing runs Android apps, but it isn't Android. The "native" apps are written with Adobe Air. And it has no email, instead needing a "leg up" from a Blackberry smartphone. My questions are: How well do the Android apps run (and how many don't)? What's point in writing native apps, if Android ones work? What the hell are they smoking to not get email working - they are RIM for crying out loud?!
      • lol

        @jeremychappell sound like someone who has read to many techblogs but hasn't actually touched or spent the time to get to know the products you so" thoroughly" review. Honeycomb isn't half baked, but it doesn't have an app ecosystem yet...yet.
      • RE: Android, MeeGo & WebOS need to get going on tablets: Now


        It's a stretch to think that Apple is going to get both the iPad2 and the iPad3 out before HP gets the Touchpad out as it was announced before either of those two. Apple's cycle isn't going to get an iPad 3 out for some time - let's let them get the iPad 2 out first.

        HP has 10" Touchpad Topaz coming in the summer and 7" Touchpad Opal coming in the fall (according to many sources). Since the Touchpad hardware already looks better than the Ipad2, Apple should be looking to get a Mini iPad2 (7" version) by the fall.
      • Android 3.0 is Fresh Build!

        @jeremychappell ......unlike iOS simply running on a giant iPod Touch and having Apps with just a slight adjustment and optimized for it!<br><br>The reality is the number of actual Apps designed ground up for it are laughable compared to what's now been either converted from FLASH (that's already) on the Web for PC's and what has come from iPod iPhone App optimization. Or do Apple users really think ground up App development can be near instant (done in months, weeks or days) on quality Apps coded in clunky old school Objective C? It's a joke of an Tablet OS.... compared to Honeycomb being a purpose built, ground up design that is naturally starting from scratch with few Apps specifically designed for it!<br><br>What? You think Adobe Air and Air 2 are bad SDK's??? Have you ever used them? I don't think so and obviously you are either an Apple or Microsoft .NET fan for runtime environments. Adobe is incorporating newest "3D MoleHill" API's into AIR from FLASH's New Next Generation Wrappers as well. But let your ignorance of FLASH cloud your perceptions of it's power to keep FLASH with it's Millions of Developers in a job for a now great Future ahead!<br><br>You only had to be at the 3D Molehill's release party and try out the demos to see that FLASH is not only NOT DEAD.... but just got it's second wind! ....try the 3D Max Racer Demo on a good PC and check the CPU cycles. Near none! ....and you can't count the polygons see it run 1080p 60FPS Graphics Goodness as fast as a native App in your Browser!!! ....all running fully accelerated using D3D and OpenGL API GPU Hardware to render in Real Time!<br><br>Give RIM a chance and they've proven they can come out of the crowd to give professional results. I don't see any of these competitors to Apple not having a future. A future that can only make our future as consumers brighter! Competition? Bad for them and Good for US!!!

        The Future is Open on a wide Freeway aboard the Web. That Freeway may be paved by HTML5, but only Open Cross Platform Applications will see lasting success. Closed proprietary narrow minded network environments have died and we only need to look back at Apple's past in light of what they should have learned from Compuserve and AOL Hell's Closed Garden Walled environments compared to FLASH's own phenomenal success in being on near every hardware platform and OS in existence to see what works long term. Now with more developers than on any of it's competitors developer base..... guess who'll still be around with innovative cross platform Web based App and Business model? ;)

        After all Apple got a hint and are just claiming to support HTML5 knowing that it has no secure transaction processing system or DRM model to be a competitor to their App market. But.... Adobe FLASH.... DOES!!! :D
    • You do realize over these past few years

      People who have purchased iPods, iPhones and now iPads are NOT all Macintosh users right? There are many an iPod owner or iPhone owner who work with PC's and have one or more at home. This whole blame the Apple faith full for Apple's wild success can't logically explain Apple's sales numbers not those loyal Macintosh user/fans alone that is. They've had to have a huge helping from those who were not Apple fanatics at least until they got their hand onto an Apple product and became one of the many Apple satisfied customers:)

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
      • RE: Android, MeeGo & WebOS need to get going on tablets: Now

        @James Quinn

        You are quite right sir. I being one of them. I have always hated Apple, being a Windows guy, but I gave the 3GS a try after it launched and instantly fell in love with it. I bought an iPhone 4 and pretty much think I have sealed my own fate with phones in the future. I am not knocking Android, I happen to love Android devices, but as sad as it makes me to say it, my heart now belongs to iOS. Most of the people I know with iPhones are also avid PC users.

        I will most likely pick up a WM7 phone in the future for a work phone, but I can guarantee that there will always be an iPhone in my pocket.
      • RE: Android, MeeGo & WebOS need to get going on tablets: Now

        @James Quinn

        Apple almost went under when all it did was cater to its exceedingly-loyal Mac owner base.

        It didn't skyrocket to success until it had products that appealed to mainstream consumers -- those with PCs, and those who don't have PCs.

        Their products may cost a little more (and that isn't even terribly true these days) but the perceived value is higher, and, in the real world, they tend to "just work" more than competitors alternatives, which is all that matters to non-geek consumers (i.e., to folks who wouldn't ever think of visiting this site).

        Apple makes consumer products, not "geek" products. (They're good geek products, too ... they just hide all that for those who don't want to see it.) And consumers have spoken: they like Apple's stuff.

        That really can't be argued, given Apple's unit sales, record revenue, and record valuation.
  • RE: Android, MeeGo & WebOS need to get going on tablets: Now

    Wrong. Some people don't want to have anything to do with iTunes on their main computing computer. Some people don't have a main computer, which means they can't use an iPad at all (no iTunes to tether to).

    So no, iPad will never, ever become a monopoly, because it doesn't fit most people's needs for mobile computing.
    • Not exactly


      You need to hook your iPad up to an iTunes machine to activate it which can be done at the Apple store. After that no you need not connect it to a computer at all if that's your wish. It's a risky way to go though because iTunes backs up your entire iPad so you could lose purchased music or movies, you also won't get software updates to the main OS. However, you can also do both of those on any computer with iTunes even if you don't own it. Being a mobile device, why would you NOT want to back it up though?
      • Yeah but why would you want to be limited to backing up to a computer

        instead of cloud storage? Or be limited to getting os updates that way. That's good to have as a choice but it flat out sucks if its the only way.
        Johnny Vegas
    • The key word in your tirade is &quot;some&quot; which you then

      magically convert to "most" by your last paragraph. Sorry. It is "some" and always will be "some." Until some other tech company actually realizes that letting EE's run your design department = FAIL, Apple will be running in front by miles.
      • Then you do not understand

        which explains why you endlessly continue to praise Apple, as well as sell all others short.

        I would believe that many here laugh at you. Is that your desired outcome?
        Tim Cook
      • Mister Spock when logic fails insult.

        @Mister Spock
        A very "emotional" reaction.

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • @Mister Spock

        It's precisely why I praise Apple. But I do not sell all others short. I simply observe and conclude.