Samsung, Nvidia move to front of Google's Android tablet army

Samsung is talking about Android for the long-haul and Nvidia is demonstrating what a quad-core chip can do for tablet gaming. With Android tablets, there's always a next wave.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Samsung, undeterred by a rather high-profile lawsuit from Apple, is doubling down on Android. Meanwhile, Nvidia is demonstration its quad-core tablet processor as a way to get ahead of Qualcomm. The message is that Android tablets will get better and come with plenty of raw power. The big question is whether that'll be enough to compete with Apple.

I've been testing Samsung's 10-inch Galaxy Tab---which launches in June---and anxiously awaiting Google's Android Honeycomb 3.1 update. Today, the device, which offers a compelling hardware package, has Honeycomb 3.0, which tends to crash third party apps. Overall, however, the 10-inch Galaxy Tab can be really competitive. The challenge with Android in general is that it's not as easy to consume music and movies as it is on the iPad. Cue your Amazon tablet talk here, but for someone like me who primarily browses, checks email and plays Angry Birds, the Tab is fine.

The news out of Computex thus far can be boiled down to a simple sentence: Android partnerships are strong. In a Wall Street Journal interview, J.K. Shin, chief of Samsung's mobile division, made the following points:

  • Samsung was caught off guard by Apple, but Android made it a player quickly.
  • Future tablets will also revolve around Android.
  • Samsung denies that it copied Apple's design.
  • Tablet shipments should surge to 7.5 million units for Samsung.
  • Samsung has its own mobile software, dubbed Bada, but Android appears to be winning.

Now Samsung will face a bevy of rivals on the Android tablet front, but it has the sister component divisions and scale to engage in a price war. In the end, Samsung may wind up being Google's biggest Android ally when you add up sales from the Galaxy smartphone and tablet franchise.

If Android can't deliver the ease of use the iPad can, Google's allies are clearly betting on performance. Enter Nvidia, which demonstrated its quad-core chip called Kal-El. Nvidia's next-gen Tegra chip supports enhanced graphics and 3D stereo.

The demo is certainly worth a look, but the wild-card will be battery life. Can Nvidia up the performance with reasonable tablet battery life? Qualcomm is clearly betting that Nvidia can't.

In the end, Android has the partner ecosystem lined up. Give these demos and initial talks a year or so and we'll see if Android tablets garner further momentum. For now though, it's Apple in a rout.

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