In Search Of... Android Tablets

Along with Bigfoot, the lost city of Atlantis, and the Bermuda Triangle, the lack of Android tablets continues to be an unsolved mystery.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

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 Ofwas 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.

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