"2012 is going to be the year that we double down and make sure we’re winning in that space."
That was Andy Rubin talking about Android’s tablet strategy at Mobile World Congress, as relayed by The Verge.
Across all the various OEMs that make Android tablets, 12 million have been sold in total. Ever. For context, Apple sold 15 million iPads last quarter.
Obviously, Google needs to do better in the space. And they should be able to. Quite honestly, it would be hard to do much worse given the interest in the space (thanks mainly to the aforementioned iPad) on both a consumer and OEM level. But Rubin’s excuse as to why the Android tablets are selling so poorly is suspect at best.
Writes Nilay Patel, partially quoting Rubin:
Rubin said that the biggest problem for Android on tablets is “there’s no organized way for consumers to recognize it as a viable platform,” and that Google wants consumers to see its tablets as part of the broader Android ecosystem.
Okay, if that’s true, why isn’t the same true for Android phones, which are obviously selling very well?
It may be because the organizational entity that Rubin fails to mention isn’t Google, but the mobile carriers. And right now, the mobile carriers don’t matter nearly as much in the tablet space as they do in the smartphone space.
Maybe that changes, maybe it doesn’t. But to me, this is Rubin essentially admitting that Android’s rise in smartphones has less to do with Android, and more to do with the carriers. In that light, Google’s decision to turn their backs on their original ideals for Android and instead get in bed with the carriers was a smart one.
4G LTE technology could end up being an important part of the tablet ecosystem, which could put the carriers back in the equation. But if that doesn’t happen, how is Google going to organize the Android tablets in a way that Rubin hopes to?
I think first and foremost, Google needs a killer tablet for Android. Something people actually want. The Kindle Fire and the Nook don’t count — at least not for Google’s purposes. I suspect Motorola may come into play here more than Google is letting on. But that may take a while. First, maybe we’ll see some kind of super-cheap flagship tablet. A $199 Nexus tablet?
The problem there is the same one that Amazon has. It’s hard to build a tablet that cheaply without it being a cheap piece of junk. In fact, right now I’d argue it’s impossible. Yes, the iPad has a nice margin, but if you think they could sell the forthcoming Retina iPad at $199 and make any money, you’re crazy. And Apple has the best component deals in the world.
I guess I’m just skeptical that 2012 will be the year Google starts “winning” in the tablet space. Even if they “double down”, they’ll be far behind the iPad. And potentially farther behind in about a week.