It's early days in tablet life and there is technically only one tablet in the market that majority of the folks wants to buy and will keep on buying - and that is iPad. With the iPad 3 announcement in less than 6 days from now, the whole world is excited about the new product that Cupertino will enthrall us even after knowing almost everything about that tablet. Except that "One more thing".
I also got ample time to play with Windows 8 consumer preview after installing it on my laptop and I have to say - It surprised me after my not so good experience with the developer edition last September. I wasn't that pleased with it then. But the consumer preview is a lot finished and it definitely looks and feels so much better than the developer version. You can see my thoughts on it here. To cut it short -its build for touch interface and tons of gestures baked in and it is intuitive. It is not perfect by any means and I have my reservations purely from a price point of view on how well it can compete with iPad and it's well machined supply-chain.
What about Android Tablets?
Google got in to the game with no clear strategy. They rushed out a version almost 14 months back. It's been 14 months and 14 months in a mobile world is a real long time. Google should have nailed this over the past 14 months. and they missed that time frame and the opportunity to make a mark and compete with Apple and it's eco-system. Even with the OS being "Kinda" free for the OEMs, they could not replicate the phone success to Tablet market. Samsung, their biggest OEM in tablets and phones openly acknowledged that their tablets are not doing that great! Don't get me wrong - Google Tablets are all nice from hardware perspective - where they lack is Apps and a Vision for tablet market.
Here is where they missed the boat.
No clear app strategy
Google is adamant that they want developers to build one app that will run on Phones and Tablets without making any code changes. I think that is an odd strategy considering the different tablet sizes that OEMs are bringing to the table. Just look at Apple - They had a clear vision on how they wanted to execute. They took their time after their iPad 1 announcement and gave the developers almost 3 months before the consumer got hold of the tablet in their hands. iOS4 was clearly forked for developers to give them tools and APIs that would behave differently for tablet size. Their apps were optimized for Tablets and that was the biggest selling point Apple had 2 years back and even today! With Honeycomb not only Google rushed it, they didn't even released the source code for it.
Google needs to ask themselves a simple question. What do they want to achieve with Tablets? I get that the core idea is to get as many different ways for folks to use Google products. Google needs to understand that they are not selling consumers as a product like they do with all their back-end services when they are selling a Tablet. You are really selling a real product! Your core goal will follow if you provide a niche user experience. A product that is intuitive, easy and has tons of apps that caters to the screen size.
Google lacked in all three areas with honeycomb. Their Gmail and Maps were the stand-out feature for me in Honeycomb. The support for SD card, USB and even the Google Talk integration was nicely done, yet it was not an easy product for consumer to digest from an UI perspective. Google forgets that Tablet is a new device category that Apple started pushing with post-PC era message and the concept of tablet is a complete new category for consumers. We have talked tablets for last 20 years, but it was iPad which bought things to the main stream. It would have been better for Google to focus on their own Eco-system, build some crazy developer tools and make some APIs for tablet market rather than rushing honeycomb to the market. They did not gained anything from it. If they did get something is the ire from customers who bought the cheap Chinese tablets or the tablets shipped with gingerbread!
They also lacked a end-to-end Eco-system that would have helped the consumers.
Here are some examples
1. Google is awesome with cloud. It is almost magic when you click on the install button in Android market on your laptop and seeing the download icon instantly showing up on the phones. Even after this, there is no central cloud storage. No Dropbox features? No GDrive. All the Google products have different storage limits. Just check the Picasa photo limit - 1 GB limit, but the photos that are less than 1.4 MB in size or something doesn't fall in that 1 GB category.
2. There was no Google Docs offline support - They finally got it now.
3. Google Voice - Either make it available to everyone in the world or don't!. Either make it carrier dependent of don't. Decide if you want to compete with Skype or want to be the cellular company - don't be both! At least support MMS if not picture, video and docs in Google Voice!
4. Google Music - Either make it available to everyone in the world or don't! Decide if you want to be a consumption company and want to compete with Amazon and Apple. If yes, then sign the deals with the music companies and buy some streaming companies and offer consumer a good choice
5. Google Video - Either make it available to everyone in the world or don't! Decide if you want to be a consumption company and want to compete with Netflix, Amazon or Apple.
Google should have focused on all the small things before releasing honeycomb or waited it till ICS!
With all being said - Google still hasn't lost it all. It's way too early in this market segment and there is plenty of opportunities when the total segment is not even 75 million units top- but they have to decide what they want to achieve with getting in to tablet.
They don't have to win it to be successful as they are not in the same position as Microsoft and Apple are, but they have to compete and compete with passion and treating consumers as consumers rather than products.