What's happened to Honeycomb?

The first Android 3.0 tablet, Motorola's Xoom, has been available for more than a month now. Others companies have been talking about their Honeycomb tablets, but none are shipping in the U.S. yet. Meanwhile device makers and developers are grumbling that Android isn't so open anymore, and there are few native apps.
Written by John Morris, Contributor

The first Android 3.0 tablet, the Motorola Xoom, has been available for more than a month now. On February 24, Verizon Wireless began selling a 32GB version for $599.99 with a two-year contract or $799.99 without a contract. The 10.1-inch tablet received generally positive reviews (here is CNET's take). Motorola followed up on March 27 with a WiFi-only version of the Xoom for $599.99 with 32GB of memory, matching the price of the iPad 2 32GB (though Apple also offers a 16GB model for $499).

It is hard to tell just how the Xoom is faring. Early on there were rumors that sales were slow. But the salesperson at my local Verizon Wireless claims there's been a lot of interest in the Xoom and said the store has sold out twice.

Lots of other companies have been talking about their Android 3.0 tablets, but none of these models are shipping in the U.S. yet.

To be more competitive with the iPad 2, Samsung has scrapped its original Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1 in favor of thinner models, which has pushed out its Android 3 tablets. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 with WiFi will ship June 8 starting at $499 with 16GB and $599 with 32GB, matching the Xoom's price. The 8.9-inch version will ship in early summer for $469 with 16GB and $569 with 32GB.

Others are much closer. LG's Optimus Pad, an 8.9-inch tablet with Honeycomb, goes on sale in Japan today. LG has previously said the same tablet would be also available in the U.S. by the end of March through T-Mobile as the G-Slate. It now looks like the G-Slate may not ship until late April. Dell will release a Streak 10, code-named Gallo, with Android 3.0 in April, according to leaked roadmaps. The site NetBook News noticed that the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, a 10-inch tablet with Android 3.0, was briefly listed on Best Buy's site as coming soon (via Engadget). The big news here is that it looks like the 16GB version could sell for $399.99 when it ships in early April.

One reason it may be taking longer for other Honeycomb tablets to hit is that Google is reportedly tightening the reins on Android. Device makers are grumbling that Google is taking longer to deliver final code and insists on approving any tweaks in advance. In addition Google apparently has no plans to release the final Android 3.0 code to the public anytime soon. Google says it is simply trying to ensure a consistent, high-quality user experience, and execs note that it has always had these "non-fragmentation clauses." For Apple, this would all be business as usual. But for Google, it is controversial because Android is supposed to be open-source software.

Another big issue is the lack of apps specifically for Android 3.0 tablets. Google released a preview developer's kit in late January and didn't release the full one with final APIs until February 22--two days before the Xoom went on sale--leaving little time for developers to build apps. One developer, Second Gear's Justin Williams, said there are still only 14 true Android 3.0 apps, along with around 50 smartphone apps that have been modified for the tablet's larger display (via Electronista). By comparison, the iPad launched with around 1,000 native apps, and a year later Apple claims there are more than 65,000 apps.

Apple is reaping the benefits of being first with a tablet, but it is still early. The market is still relatively small--around 20 million units last year--but it is growing quickly. Market researcher IDC is forecasting 67 million units this year and 243 million by 2015. Other competitors such as RIM and HP are further behind than Google and its partners. RIM will release the WiFi version of its PlayBook on April 19, but HP's webOS-powered TouchPads won't be available until summer. Once a few more Honeycomb tablets become available, and developers start to catch-up with native apps, it will easier to see if Android can really challenge Apple's iPad.

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