In Search Of... Android Tablets

In Search Of... Android Tablets

Summary: Along with Bigfoot, the lost city of Atlantis, and the Bermuda Triangle, the lack of Android tablets continues to be an unsolved mystery.

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Along with Bigfoot, the lost city of Atlantis and the Bermuda Triangle, the lack of Android tablets continues to be an unsolved mystery.

The millennials and Gen-Ys and even late Gen-Xers that read this column won't remember the reference or understand the context, but in my opinion, besides his role as Mister Spock on Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy's best TV appearances were on In Search Of, a syndicated documentary program which aired from 1976-1982.

Long before most of you were born.

Well, besides Star Trek, he was also on Mission: Impossible, but on that show he was really only a bit player -- I could never really get into the "Paris" character, who was just a Season 4 replacement for Martin Landau (ironically, who once was almost cast by Gene Roddenberry as Spock in Star Trek).

In Search Of was a brilliant show, if not for Nimoy's 1970's wardrobe alone. It was the precursor to virtually all of the Discovery Channel-style "paranormal porn" investigative documentaries, and covered such scientific career-ending subjects as Atlantis, Easter Island, UFO's, Ancient Astronauts, Bigfoot, Life on Mars and just about every kind of pseudoscience goofy stuff the producers could lay their hands on.

If the series were still being produced today, I have no doubt that good ol' Leonard would be chasing down Android tablets.

Also Read: Tablets, Past, Present and Future (Parts I and II)

What the heck happened to these? There were supposed to be a whole bunch of them.

There were, what, three separate Dell designs to appear in the US which included the 5-inch Streak (which has so far, only launched in the UK) as well as a 7-inch and 10-inch unit? The Viewsonic T20? The German WeTab? The Lenovo LePad? SHARP's device? Toshiba's? The Cisco Cius, which appears delayed until January of 2011? And now ASUS has only finally committed to producing a device? Motorola, which has been successful with their Droid smartphones, has yet to release a tablet. Neither has HTC, Motorola's main Android smartphone rival. Or LG or Samsung for that matter.

Indeed, there have been a few tier two/tier three OEMs that have tested the waters with early tablet launches, such as with Archos's high-end Internet Tablet. The $150.00 Augen eReader is to hit K-Mart this week. But the big players have not yet jumped into the game, even though products are clearly under development.

So what's the hold up? Well, I think it's a combination software maturity and ensuring that the devices are worthy competitors to the iPad. Or maybe it's the Martians.

For starters, there's the issue of Froyo, the latest Android 2.2 release, which has only recently been given to OEMs. Froyo hasn't even been released to most Android smartphones, let alone integrated into Tablet designs yet.

While most of the big-name aforementioned Android developers could launch their designs with the previous release, 2.1 Eclair, the performance would not be optimal as it lacks the JIT compiler which reportedly can speed up Dalvik JVM performance 2 to 5 times faster than the previous release.

As any Android tablet upon release is going to be compared to Apple's iPad, letting this hardware out into the wild without putting the software stack's best foot forward is probably unwise.

[UPDATE: It appears that Dell, bucking conventional wisdom, will release its Streak in the United States with Android 1.6 "Cupcake", followed by a Froyo software update.]

Then there's the issue of Adobe Flash. One of the biggest complaints about the iPad is that it lacks flash support, and Flash can only run on the newest Froyo 2.2 release. Adobe and Google are still working on optimizing the Flash executable for performance on smartphones -- we aren't likely to see what it looks like until early next month when Verizon reportedly begins to update their Droid phones to 2.2.

Preliminary reports of Froyo and Flash running on the Nexus One are encouraging, but until we start actually seeing it running on production level Tablet hardware, where more intense Flash app usage is likely to occur, we won't actually know how much a performance hit in terms of power, memory and CPU impact they are going to take.

Besides Flash, there is also the issue of Tablet-optimized Android apps. Like the iPad which has access to the full range of iOS apps on the App store, Android Froyo tablets -- when a few of them are released in Q1 of 2011 -- should be able to use all the existing applications that have been developed on the Android Market. Some 100,000 Android applications are suspected to populate the Android Market by early 2011.

However, like the iPad, many of these apps may need to be screen optimized and the developers are going to need to spend quality time with the Android SDK and seed hardware. All of which will delay launches of these products.

There's also the issue of key shortages in important component parts -- 10", 7" and 5" LCD and OLED touchscreen displays produced by the major Korean, Chinese and Japanese manufacturers are all being eaten up. And Apple is apparently one of the biggest consumers of the existing pipeline. If the demand for iPad screens is becoming difficult to meet, then surely Android Tablets from the major consumer electronics OEMs are going to have manufacturing procurement issues as well.

Are all the Android Tablets stored in an underwater Alien base at the bottom of the Mariana Trench? Are they being hoarded in Bigfoot's cave? Or is Froyo, Flash and form-factor optimization of key applications and key component shortages holding them up? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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134 comments
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  • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

    Could just re-title it "In search of Tablets" Microsoft is a no show in this category as well
    mrlinux
    • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

      @mrlinux - Alternatively, we could keep the conversation relevant to the points made in the article and discuss the lack of actual tablets shipping with the necessary version of Android and the lack of apps that are engineered to provide a smooth user experience on said devices.
      de-void-21165590650301806002836337787023
      • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

        @de-void history being what it is...that won't happen
        ItsTheBottomLine
    • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

      @mrlinux

      I agree - personally, I'm looking for an Android tablet, but if I didn't have an Android phone, that might not be the case.

      MS has a fantastic looking new Windows Phone 7 OS to get off the ground - launching tablets as well as phones would be one way to get that out there in a higher cresting, leading-edge wave.

      Sadly, I think MS has ANOTHER OS they are prepping for tablets... a bad strategy in my opinion, because they could be building off of their mobile phone customer base, whose use they would have already paved the way for - same reason I'm looking for an Android tablet, being an Android phone user.
      geolemon
      • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

        @geolemon I wonder what the story is now over a year later.
        Yeah technology rocks but it changes so fast as soon as you buy the latest gadget, before it's out the box it's out of date, just like <a href="http://www.vibrationplatereviews.net"><font color="#000000">vibration plate reviews</font></a>. As soon as you've found out what phone or vibration plate you want, you unpack it get it going and then find out there's a new one out already.
        whutd
    • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

      @mrlinux
      WRONG. Archos 9 tablet runs off of windows 7. And it came out before ipad did.
      rengek
    • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

      @mrlinux Shocking the Software company isn't in the forefront of a competing platform with their own hardware fix
      se_ker@...
  • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

    At $150, that KMart tablet is cheap enough to buy as a disposable experiment. I really have my heart set on that HP Slate that was demo'ed, we'll see if it ever ships.<br><br>This assumes the KMart tablet can run Kindle for Android.
    nightbirdsf
    • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

      @nightbirdsf I'm probably going to pick one up.
      jperlow
      • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

        @jperlow The specs for the Augen/KMart at the Augen website look about the same as for my WinMo 6.5 phone which I'm very happy with, except for the lower dpi to stretch the 800x480 screen to 7". <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/happy.gif" alt="happy"><br><br>I tried the KMart link at the Toy Box blog, but I can't do anything when I get to the site. Does that mean there are no web sales, I instead go to my nearest brick-and-mortar? Payday's Thursday, I'll go on Friday.

        Edit: I'll pass VB an email.
        nightbirdsf
      • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

        @jperlow So I changed my mind and went tonight. Sold out. They called another store, also sold out. I got a rain check but I'm not hopeful. I did look at the the Augen TheBook ebook reader. That was on sale, too, but I hear they are very weak, and you have to root it to do anything interesting.
        nightbirdsf
      • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

        @jperlow<br>Essentially the same tablet, the Eken M001 can be had from DealExtreme for $99 free shipping, and for even cheaper direct from China.<br>That said, you get what you pay for. They are kinda junk. Nonetheless, I may end up getting about 10 for a project I am working on.

        Meanwhile, what's up with ZDNet censoring posts?!?
        DeusXMachina
      • FLASH Light is running on all Samsung Phones and DROID X is being Updated!

        @jperlow @jperlow Both Droid X and Incredible are being updated to Froyo today!<br><br><a href="http://erictric.com/2010/07/28/android-2-2-froyo-leaked-for-htc-droid-incredible/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://erictric.com/2010/07/28/android-2-2-froyo-leaked-for-htc-droid-incredible/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://erictric.com/2010/07/28/android-2-2-froyo-leaked-for-htc-droid-incredible/</a></a><br><br>btw... that Augen setup is no CrApple iFad killer. But it's not bad either. If you realize it's a resistive touch screen and not capasitive to begin with (btw it'll be rooted and overclocked before the days out). You'll use a stylis, but that's not a bad thing for accuracy in sctetchpad that iFad can't touch. If iFad fools realize they have to adjust that in settings. But some idiots will (iFad morons out to make it look bad) most likely do a crap comparison iFad to a unit that costs a third the cost of iFad. There is already a few on YouTube and you know right away they (as they tell or show you their iFad Arrogance) are going to diss it for no good reasons other than they feel the threat of the legions of Android devices on the march to crush the iFad iNazi World Domination. Nvidia and Samsung will be the first to push CrApple into their Death March launching with 2.2 Froyo armor into battle!<br><br>But aside; I bet Augen sells more of these $150 slates than iFads by itself. You can buy one for your kid, wife and self for the inflated price you spend on one iFad!<br><br>I know you got one Jason.... but get real it's got it's problems. But from the YouTube crap iNazi iFad videos this unit doesn't look too bad if these idiots only knew how to use them to review them. There is a difference in how you operate the two completely different devices with different OS no less and they should never be compared in the first place. Real shoppers will realize this and since they most likely don't have a iFad to compare it to, won't care.<br><br>To you iFad owners who've pledged undying alegiance to Steve iHitler Nobs and Apple I doubt you can figure out the difference that the 5yo's getting them will have figured out in heartbeat! .....because they won't be out to even compare it to what they don't have. If they're that big of snobs to cry and pout like Steve in his AntennaGate, then they don't deserve to even be getting the Augen GenTouch78! <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/wink.gif" alt="wink"><br><br><a href="http://www.augenus.com/indexhome.html/GENTOUCH.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.augenus.com/indexhome.html/GENTOUCH.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.augenus.com/indexhome.html/GENTOUCH.html</a></a><br><br>(same 256mb ram as iFad, on a 7" screen will be near 102ppi with iFad at 132ppi. The difference will be the Line Doubling on iFad. But both are running OpenVG ES and OpenGL ES that renders "Resolution Free Graphics". Meaning 720p videos will look pretty dam good. Btw it is also capable of reading 32gb not just 16gb and you must have an SD card installed to run 720p videos on it of course. But today on ebay, 16gb SD cards around $20 and you can find 32gb at around $35 to $50 although you wouldn't the Class 10 SD card in this intro model slate anyway)<br><br>One last little morsel for all you iNazis out there. Hitler stormed through Poland, Austria, Netherlands and France before succumbing to the entire World come storming back on him. Microsoft too has had it's battle and like the Russians in WWII and overwhelmed the enemy with their shear numbers of troops like MS w/ devices sold. Today we are witnessing the beginning of that onslaught and the Shear number of Android Devices coupled w/ America's Premeir MS Live Anywhere Forces later this year, will no doubt send CrApple packing their fannies home..... again in the not too distant future and they'll deserve it AGAIN! haha.... hordes of Android and WP7 devices will surely be bought by common users. Challenging once again CrApple's dominance and it will surely fall to the overwhelming numbers of devices sold just like they did when cheap PC's took control over CrApple. Now they still rule 90% of users desktops Worldwide. Good or bad CrApple will lose the War AGAIN!!!
        i2fun@...
  • Pressure, or $$$, from Microsoft?

    There could be pressure, or incentives, from Microsoft to delay or not allow tablets in the market with Android even though Microsoft has failed with their attempts. If you can't win then poison your enemies victory. Sounds about right from Ballmer and company.
    MisterMiester
    • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

      @MisterMiester - Hate to tell you this, but until MS or its partners actually announce the availability of a Windows-based tablet/slate, Android's biggest issue is Apple, NOT Microsoft.

      One might even argue that Apple has FAR more to gain from using their $$$ to twist the arms of component vendors, OEM's and carriers to not try too hard to bring Android products to market.
      de-void-21165590650301806002836337787023
      • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

        [i]One might even argue that Apple has FAR more to gain from using their $$$ to twist the arms of component vendors, OEM's and carriers to not try too hard to bring Android products to market. [/i]<br><br>@de-void
        What OEMs? Apple is a single vendor that builds their own hardware, so what kind of pressure can they bring to bear on their parts suppliers in China over this?<br><br>M$ on the other hand, has had a history of pressuring their American OEMs into complying with their wishes. I have no doubt they did this with netbooks [b]after[/b] they were introduced and caught unawares. Now I can see them doing this as a preventive measure. I wouldn't put it past them.
        LTV10
      • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

        @de-void Agree. MS as far as I'm concerned isn't really a major player at this time. Google gt their Droid phones right of the rip. I can see the Idroid or whatever they'll call it being made based off the what they use on their phones. We may see one soon.
        dove-7
      • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

        @LTV10
        Apple builds their own hardware now? Since when? where is the apple LCD factory etc? All apple has to do is agree to pay a fixed premium price for parts like screens, as many as the supplier can turn out, on the condition that the supplier only makes screens for them for the agreed upon time. This could even be considered to be fully legal and not monopolistic if in these terms.
        kevinrs1
      • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

        @ltv10 you MUST be a fanboi. Apple employs many other companies to make their products, Foxconn for one, They don't just make components, they make entire machines. Where on any apple product does it say "made in the USA"?
        thatroom
      • RE: In Search Of... Android Tablets

        <i>@LTV10<br>Apple builds their own hardware now? Since when? where is the apple LCD factory etc? All apple has to do is agree to pay a fixed premium price for parts like screens, as many as the supplier can turn out, on the condition that the supplier only makes screens for them for the agreed upon time. This could even be considered to be fully legal and not monopolistic if in these terms. </i><br><br><i>@ltv10 you MUST be a fanboi. Apple employs many other companies to make their products, Foxconn for one, They don't just make components, they make entire machines. Where on any apple product does it say "made in the USA"?</i><br><br>Well reading that post up above, he did say "parts suppliers in China" so that tells me that they're made over there. And since Foxconn makes parts for many other things besides Apple, they probably wouldn't be able to get away with pressuring them since there are few other parts suppliers who could make those same parts to their own specifications. Foxconn could have Apple over a barrel if they wanted to.<br><br>Btw, do you have proof they pressured them into an exclusivity agreement the same way M$ did to Dell, HP, Compaq, etc..?<br><br>And besides, I don't consider Foxconn the same as an OEM such as Dell, HP or Gateway since Foxconn doesn't brand complete units under the "Foxconn" name. They also have sub suppliers who build out many of the parts elsewhere.<br><br>Next.
        ahh so