Dude, Where's My Android Tablet?

Why is it taking so long for manufacturers to release Android tablets? The demand is there, but they are taking their sweet time.

The System, by Rosscott

"The System" by Rosscott

Apple's iPad has been a huge hit, but Android tablet devices without a doubt will make a huge impact on the consumer electronics industry. With all of this the pent up consumer demand for the tablet device form factor, customers are eagerly awaiting the release of dozens of Android alternatives.

Right now, however, the only Android tablets available right now are low-powered Chinese knockoffs running an old version of Android, with no apparent warranty or detailed specs. The buyer should definitely beware these devices.

Then there's the Augen Gentouch78 which appeared briefly at various Kmart stores only to sell out before anyone even realized they existed. The takeaway from it is that it's slow, underpowered, and doesn't work properly with the Android app store.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab looks really promising--a well-designed device, with decent specs for a 7-inch tablet. Samsung is geared up to officially announce the device in Berlin on September 2, but there's no set release date for when it will actually be available for sale.

It looks like the Cruz Reader from Velocity Micro will be available for sale in early September. It's fairly low-powered with an 800MHz CPU and 800x600 resolution, but it's low-priced and is an Android-powered 7-inch tablet with WiFi and web capabilities. The Cruz Tablet has the same CPU, faster WiFi networking, more memory and a narrower resolution of 800x480. Both use the Cruz App Market, and there's no way to yet determine if the regular Android app market is available.

Also Read: Tablets Past, Present and Future

Also Read: In Search Of... Android Tablets (Jason Perlow)

The problem is that there is no abundance of tablets to compete with Apple's iPad right now. Every manufacturer is talking about what they have coming, but they really have nothing to show. Google's own Android tablet isn't due to arrive until late November. RIM's projected Blackpad, which has no confirmed specs, and may not run BlackBerry OS6 or Android, also isn't due until November.

Cisco's Cius and the HP Slate (which is based on the Palm WebOS) won't be out until Q1 of 2011. By that time, Apple may have already released their second tablet, which is rumored to be a smaller 7-inch device to fill that missing tablet sweet spot.

Suspiciously absent from all of this are Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I mention them because they both have released mature e-reader devices based on Linux and the Android OS respectively, are WiFi and 3g networking-enabled, and the e-reader market has been greatly successful. It's not that far a stretch to see the Kindle and the Nook re-engineered with a 7" AMOLED screen and a 1GHz CPU. Battery life would shrink, so they would have to add a second battery or use a much larger one.

Both of these companies have released Android versions of their e-reader software for phones. Both companies missed a huge opportunity here to develop lightweight mass-market Android tablets, and they could have done it before Apple got the iPad to market.

With all of these delays, Apple's hold on the tablet market simply grows stronger. It doesn't mean that there won't eventually be competitive alternatives. It does, however, mean that many customers will get frustrated by the long wait and end up buying an iPad, even if it doesn't meet all of their needs.

Admittedly, the Android smartphone market has collectively outsold the iPhone. But that doesn't mean there is one phone that goes toe-to-toe with the iPhone. The same will be true for an Android tablet. Collectively they may outsell the iPad, but there will inevitably be a lot of junk mixed in with the gems.

Honestly, I wish the manufacturers would stop diddling around so we can figure out which ones are the gems sooner rather than later.