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Top Android Tablets Cannot Compete with iPad 2, Says CEA

Andrew Williams


Top Android Tablets Cannot Compete with iPad 2, Says CEA

CEA Director of Industy Analysis Steve Koenig has talked-down high-end Android tablets’ chances of stealing the Apple iPad 2’s market supremacy in 2011. He says that they ask buyers to cough-up more money for a fundamentally less attractive device.

The Consumer Electronics Association is the force behind the CES annual tech show, which takes place in Las Vegas each January. Today we talked to CEA’s Steve Koenig who said that “RIM, Motorola (and) Samsung can’t beat Apple on price” in the tablet market, and that buying one of these iPad 2-rival tablets isn’t alluring – that you “pay several hundred dollars more for an “uncool” product.”

Here Koenig refers to the mainstream buyer, millions more of whom will buy tablets this year according to the bold predictions of many a market analyst. Although he didn’t claim the Motorola Xoom was immune from this Apple effect, he did cite the tablet as being the one with the “best chance” of competing, thanks to an impressive integration of Google’s new tablet-focused Android 3.0 Honeycomb operating system. Other tablets didn’t get off so lightly, Koenig remarking that “90 per cent of the tablets out there are not even close” to iPad 2-quality.

Other tablet platforms in-waiting were also given a mention. Koenig says that the BlackBerry PlayBook has a good chance of hooking-in an early fanbase thanks to the “entrenched” ranks of BlackBerry users worldwide, and that a dedicated tablet platform is “something we’ll hear from Microsoft this year.” He commented that a port of Microsoft’s Surface “makes sense.” Surface is currently used to power huge table-like computers costing many thousands of dollars, and recalling images from the 1982 sci-fi movie Tron, but shrunken down to tablet-sized proportions it could work well, already supporting near-essential tablet features like multi-touch.

Koenig was careful not to label any of these decried tablets as dead on arrival though, noting how the “market opportunity is shifting" towards devices that lie in the screen-inch void that sits between mobile phones and laptops – between 5in and 15in. When none of these high-end electronics are particularly cheap to design or produce, how many can be sustained, even if the market is growing?

Michael Kilbane

March 22, 2011, 8:56 pm

Here we go again. All the Apple fanboy coming out to trash talk the competition because they feel that Apple supremacy is under threat. First the smartphone market now the tablet market.

Hans Gruber

March 22, 2011, 9:52 pm

Quite a bold statement, what does TR say about Koenig's {somewhat inflammatory and dismissive} views?

Surely it's all the apple-haters opportunity to rant back? I say this as a fan of Android and its more open attitude towards hardware and software development.

The main barrier of entry towards purchasing Apple products for me is a fiscal one though I'm more admittedly interested in their computer products. Tablets, to me, are just toys. Desirable in some ways but ultimately extremely limited.

They don't support RAW file image processing so they're no good for workflow just for showing stuff off after - all for presentation and no practical use beyond consuming entertainment. When this isn't so and you can just twin the tablet with a stand and keyboard so it's as functional as a fully fledged PC, then we're talking. But I suspect it'll be a long time before this is common.

Arctic Fox

March 22, 2011, 10:21 pm

@Michael Kilbane

I think we should just chill guy (to coin a phrase!). In the course of the coming months the skies are going to start raining Android tablets in all price segments from any number of producers. Honeycomb is now out and will get better with every upgrade - it is scarcely any wonder that Apple's prices are suddenly getting that little bit more (relatively speaking) reasonable - they aren't worried? No of course they're not, in a pig's ear!


Arctic Fox


March 22, 2011, 10:25 pm

@Michael Kilbane - I'm a WebOS fan, BUT I have to agree with the sentiment of this guy's comments.

I think what may have been lost, is the context of the word 'attractive'. I believe it was intended to convey the attractiveness of the iPad2's entire ecosystem - the apps, the unprecedented market for 1st/3rd party accessories, the ubiquity of the dock connector, the quality & finish of the hardware, battery-life, developer support, etc, etc

I was holding out for a TouchPad, but am weakening due to my lust for the superb GarageBand app. Seriously, nobody - not even Honeycomb's 'Fragments' UI elements - have anything on some of the UI/UX genius showcased in GarageBand.

Our U.S. cousins just need to learn how to pronounce it correctly ;-)


March 22, 2011, 11:56 pm

Whilst I remain convinced that Apple reap a disgracefully huge margin from their hardware sales (I don't pay much attention to the tear-downs - do they *really* know the prices Apple have negotiated for components & labour - probably not) - they develop one device a year and spend the next 12 months raking in the cash. All the other manufacturers seem to have endless churn - bringing out device after device in countless iterations every few weeks,all competing for the same buyer - they must struggle to break even on each one, given the R&D, tooling & marketing costs they must incur. I think this is why there is such a price difference, and buyers will go for the iPad because at least they know it won't be superceded by a newer version in a months time!


March 22, 2011, 11:58 pm

The keyword here is, I think, "top". As in high end, expensive Android tablets. And when you look at that market it's very very hard to argue that there's going to be a compelling rival to the iPad this year (i.e. a rival to the iPad 2). Honeycomb is brand new and still has the whiff of Beta software about it, tablet-specific apps on the platform are still few and far between, the devices themselves are coming in at best on a par with the iPad in terms of cost while being, so far anyway, less desirable and, most importantly of all, the long term support of these manufacturers is currently unknown.

It's one thing for Samsung, Motorola etc to refuse to support their smartphones past one or, if you're very lucky, two new versions of Android. Most of those devices are bought subsidised after all. It's quite a different proposition to get someone to drop £400+ on a computer (and to most that's what a tablet is, stupid geek protestations of it being 'a toy' aside) then finding they're out of luck when it comes to support after just a few months. Certainly anyone dropping iPad money on an Android tablet this year who doesn't place considerable value on it simply being a non-Apple device (or requires/desires specific Honeycomb features) is making a very risky purchase.

And that's going to be the interesting distinction between Android tablets and phones: is there a market for the big name companies to make expensive devices when good-enough alternatives are available at half the price. It's an issue that's starting to press the big boys in the phone space but is hidden a little by subsidies. In the tablet market that's largely not the case and it's going to be very interesting to see how this goes.

Hamish Campbell

March 23, 2011, 11:49 am

@BOFH - That's a good point, Apple has been pretty good with upgrading the OS on it's iphones, that's as good a reason to go for the iPad2 as any.

Hmmm I seem to have overused 'good' horrendously there


March 23, 2011, 1:12 pm

2011 I agree, Long-term it will be Android. Apple is just not flexible enough in the hardware department.

Pendejo Sin Nombre

March 23, 2011, 1:28 pm

'They don't support RAW file image processing so they're no good for workflow just for showing stuff off after - all for presentation and no practical use beyond consuming entertainment.'

The hardware? Yes, The iPad does. In terms of software for for RAW editing there's piRAWnha. No, one app (as far as I know) isn't exactly a great deal of choice but I doubt it'll stay that way.


March 23, 2011, 1:37 pm

Well I agree with the CEA's point, tho I would put more focus and blame on the manufacturers for overestimating the market and pricing far too high, as he points out at the price of £399 the standard person shopping for a tablet would pickup the iPad without a second thought, they need to be aiming at a price point significantly below this to stand any chance (and it is possible to hit this price, look at the Archos 101 and Advent Vega). Really hoping that now ZTE have stated they are making a tablet they come to the market with a honeycomb tablet for £199-£250, that would really take off

Its a shame because I really think Google's decision to have a seperate tablet OS (rather than apple having the same OS on the iPhone and iPad) is a much better plan in the long run, Google are in a great position to really push tablets from Media consumption to media creation (i.e. allowing SD cards, different sized tablets, budget models) so I hope they don't waste it!


March 23, 2011, 1:43 pm

@BOFH / @Haim - yep... the last 12 months has seen a huge number of tablets come and go. How many made any lasting impact? How many do the public remember fondly?

Only the iPad has really touched the public imagination.

Android's strength of being a catch-all platform for any mobile device... is also perhaps it's key weakness, resulting in a massive churn of '5 minute wonder' devices which lack long term support from their manufacturer, or mass adoption by the public.

It doesn't help that most Android tablets with a decent spec hover around or above the iPad's pricing point - as iOS offers a lot of intrinsic value that goes beyond the hardware specs.

More interesting is how HP and RIM are going to tackle this market - neither is in the commodity market, so they have to offer long term support for their tablet devices. How will they build in value that appeals to the public? What will they do to improve on the iPad (given that HP have already dropped the ball once by missing out on providing an SD card slot on the TouchPad).

There's a danger that in trying to emulate the iPad's secret recipe, HP, in particular, may be alienating the very group of users that were looking to the TouchPad for something with more versatility and less restrictions. The result, for me, is an increased interest in the iPad2 - as, if you're going to be restricted anyway, you may as well be in the camp with lots of support, cheap & easily accessible apps, media and GarageBand!


March 23, 2011, 3:24 pm

Am I the only one who agrees with RIM that the killer app should be the browser and not the 65,000 others, 90% of which are no doubt crapware?

I can totally see why someone in the hunt for a tablet right now would go for an iPad but Honeycomb really does look far more promising to me as a power user. I've tried out iPads but the problem for is that they don't replace anything and are more of a fun toy I still think it's going to be a good year or two for them to reach the point where they could actually replace a laptop.

Everyone keeps going on about GarageBand and I'm sure it must be great if that's your thing but am I wrong in thinking that it must appeal to a fairly niche market in the grand scheme of things?

Spoken like a true management accountant! Apple's astronomical margins normally put me off buying their tech but I'm guessing that the iPad is the one product where they're much smaller than usual while pound for pound it beats the competition on specs at equivalent prices.


March 23, 2011, 3:27 pm

@rav: Definitely agree. Games notwithstanding.


March 24, 2011, 12:12 am

@rav - it's not so much GarageBand itself as the high watermArk it sets for tablet-based app interfaces in general.

This points the way to how productive a touch-based interface can be when it's not
built using desktop software GUI controls.

I find the idea of a tablet being just about the browser quite narrow-sighted and wasteful - all that expensive technology needs to earn its keep in my household!

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