This weekend, I visited a friend who has now replaced his Blackberry Playbook with Android HTC Sense tablet. I took the pleasure to play around with the device, and with an open mind. I have to say that I was literally blown away by how complete HTC Sense (Android 4.0) felt. It is simply amazing. As I browsed through the options, one thing dawned on me, which is – it is only a matter a matter of time before we start seeing Android on Desktop PCs. Such was the natural feel.
The key question is; how are other tablet operating systems (OS) going to compete with Google Android? Honestly, I think it’s going to be tough. Especially for Blackberry maker RIM. As RIM keeps begging for more time to release a credible finished operating system for both their phone and tablet devices, it seems Android is moving at light speed in viral mode. While this article is based on Tablet market, I will be using smartphone and tablet interchangeably due to the fact that the flow directly into one another.
Android vs Blackberry
This is a no context. As much as I loved Blackberry devices, they are now out of touch with today’s demands. As I stated earlier, RIM is pushing the next major revamp on their smartphones to Q2. That really doesn’t bold well for a company that is already struggling. RIM’s business model is the first killer. The fact that they control the fully eco-system of hardware and software has resulted in expectation overload. Whereas, Google can simply focus on getting Android ready while manufacturers work out how best to present it on their hardware. Let’s more on fast to the real challengers… iOS and Windows 8 tablet.
Android vs iOS
Today, Apple’s iPad which runs iOS is the biggest competition for Google’s Android. iOS became the benchmark when it was released but is facing intense competition from Android in terms of raw feature capacity and customization. To further make matters complicated for Apple, they seem to be walking along the same path as RIM’s old business model of tightly controlling both the hardware and software. I don’t think that this will hold up well in the hot tablet market. It would be very difficult for Apple to be as innovative as Google in that department and history confirms this if we look at the impact Android has had in the smartphone space. To further quantify the point that I’m trying to make, Apple dropped from 65% to 54% between September and December of 2011. Main beneficiary being Samsung that rose from 5% to 13% during the same period.
Android offers so much in terms of customization of device and flexible eco-system for user interaction and that makes Apple’s iPad less attractive option. While Apple tries to entrap consumers in its eco-system, Google’s Android liberates them from being tied into one. This was apparent when my friend’s brother who purchased an iPad2 because he believed that it was the only he could seamlessly use his other iOS related files, was given HTC Sense to play with. His reaction? He was left in complete awe. I think that his reaction is indicative of what we are going to start seeing this year. If Apple fails to fully revamp iOS on iPad3, which is due later this year, I predict that would become the beginning of the end of the strong market share that Apple currently enjoys. Price margin is now also coming under intense pressure.
Oh yeah, to really understand the power of innovation based on Android, then check out the video below of Asus Transformer Prime. It was made last year and further shows why Apple’s business model on their hardware will not hold up in the innovation department against Android based devices. There are simply way too many of them that it makes it an unfair battle.
Asus Transformer Prime running Android 3.0
Android vs Windows 8 tablet
So, onto Windows 8 Tablet. Given lack of media attention on Windows tablets when compared to iPad and Android based counterparts, it is ironic that this Windows 8 based tablets would eventually become the only tablet that would be able to compete with Android. My rationale for this prediction is that, unlike Apple, Microsoft’s business model in the tablet space is very similar to Google’s. They make the operating system and leave hardware manufacturer to go to war with it. The translates to more and more options for consumers. Also, what would really power Windows 8 tablet is the fact that it runs a complete Windows desktop operating system. Imagine that on the Asus Transformer Prime in the video above… It would be AMAZING! Quad Core thin Tablet that’s thinner than iPad2 and runs full Windows 8 with metro UI effects. Thinking about it actually blows my mind.
Early developer version of Windows 8 running on Samsung Tablet
Also, here’s news flash for you… Samsung is going to be showing off a new tablet built on Windows 8 during this weeks Consumer Electronics Association – CES 2012. We can all expect that to be something that would compete with Asus Transformer Prime and the fact that it would run on Windows 8 might even make me a buyer.
Reasons why Android will dominate
- It is hardware agnostic – Motorola, Samsung, HTC, Sony, ASUS, Acer, Dell, you name it, all have Android as their primary OS
- Android is based on open-source software stack
- Development cycle is the best in the sector. I still remember Android 1.x lagging badly behind but transformation to what we have today is simply remarkable.
The aforementioned points are very similar for Microsoft’s Windows 8, except for point 2.
Well, my conclusion is that RIM is pretty much out of the market irrespective of what they do later in the year with QNX software. Then you have Apple which is going to start feeling the pinch from competitors, especially hardware competition. I think Apple will survive through to iPad3. But it would be very difficult to them to compete with the level of change that would be expected of them ever so frequently from consumers. No longer would a “giant” iPhone cut it which is more or less what an iPad is. That would need to change for them to even get iPad3 to compete. Apple will eventually be remembered for shaping the tablet space just like they did in the smartphone world but going forward, they will not innovate fast enough.
That leaves only Microsoft’s Windows 8 as the main competitor to Android. This is what it is going to boil down. The only question is whether Microsoft would successfully market their advantage as the only tablet operating system that is backward compatible with old PC applications.
My final prediction is that consumers are going to start becoming the decider of who wins and my money is on Android and Windows 8 tablet due to their flexibility and raw richness.