Google's alleged tablet: Four huge hurdles ahead

Google is targeting Amazon with a tablet that would go for less than $199---the price of the Kindle Fire. However, integration will matter more than price.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Google is allegedly plotting a 7-inch branded tablet that would take on Amazon's Kindle Fire and Apple's iPad. Such a move wouldn't be all that surprising, but there are a bevy of challenges. According to DigiTimes, Google is targeting Amazon with a tablet that would go for less than $199---the price of the Fire.

On the surface, Google's move would make total sense. It needs more Android tablets in the market. The company is dying to show it can integrate services. And Google will own a hardware company once it closes the Motorola Mobility deal. In addition, Google can subsidize a cheap tablet with advertising just like Amazon does with e-commerce.

Add it up and a Google tablet is a no-brainer. DigiTimes' timelines may be off, but conceptually the rumor makes sense. On Techmeme, there's some consternation about whether Google can make a tablet without taking losses. Quality is also an open question. The cost equation is a wash for Google. If the company bought a hardware company just for patents who cares if Google loses some dough on tablets?

So what are the key issues? Google has four:

  1. Android 4.0: I've been playing with Ice Cream Sandwich on my Galaxy Nexus. I like it and it's an improvement on the phone. On a tablet, the OS could be viewed as Honeycomb. The UI is ok, but I'd hardly call it the most integrated thing.
    Jason Perlow did a deep dive on this issue
    and I see his point, which is that Ice Cream Sandwich can't carry the tablet market for Google.
  2. Integration: Amazon's win with the Kindle Fire is that it reskinned Android and integrated its e-commerce and content services. Google's services are still silos, but have improved.
  3. Late mover disadvantage. The tablet market price points are staked out between higher---Apple---and lower---Amazon. What's Google going to do go with $100 tablets? Hand tablets out like Chiclets.
  4. Marketing magic. Google's Eric Schmidt said that the search giant was planning a tablet of the highest quality. Already, Google is boxing itself in. Remember when Schmidt said Google was going to reinvent TV? Right. Simply put, the days where Google entered a market and you assumed success are over. Like Microsoft, the 800 pound Google gorilla doesn't always succeed. Does Google have the venues to really push a tablet? Sounds crazy to ask given all the ads Google could use, but it lacks a unified store front like Amazon.

Can Google deliver a tablet? Sure. Is Google willing to take a big loss on it? You bet. Will the tablet be a hit? Your guess is as good as mine. A Google tablet could be another Chromebook---a nice experiment, but not exactly a commercial success.

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