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Forced Medication: Why Google Hasn't Taken To Tablets

The first strategy is to quietly negate tablets completely. Google has had an agenda to aggressively increase smartphone screen sizes with every handset it has designed. It started with the 3.2in T-Mobile G1 in 2008, jumped two screens in 2010 – first to 3.7in with the Google Nexus One then 4in with the Nexus S - and this week the Samsung Galaxy Nexus was unveiled sporting a monstrous 4.65in display. Given the 5in Dell Streak was considered by some to be a tablet in 2010, it shows the shift in mentality Google is driving. In a future of big screen smartphones (Toshiba has just unveiled a 6.1in 498ppi display) and Ultrabook-style thin and light, increasingly finger-friendly laptops (and Chromebooks) interest in dedicated tablets could well wane.


If not Google is beefing up its thin content services in any case. YouTube is evolving to become Google's Cloud-based iTunes with film rentals hitting the UK this month and the same service has just been extended to Android Marketplace. Meanwhile Android boss Andy Rubin confirmed on Thursday that the company is "close" to agreements with labels to launch a proper music download store with "a little twist". After all if Amazon is in a position to virtually give away the Kindle Fire and make most profit by selling content through it (think printers and ink cartridges), Google needs similar leverage.


As is stands Google tablets remain in an uncertain position. The company clearly had no great interest or plan for tablets when the iPad confounded sceptics and were Google allowed a do over it would almost certainly have written off a limp 12 months and launched its first tablet with the unified design of Ice Cream Sandwich. That slow start has seen analysts claim Apple's advantage will now last beyond 2017, but again it was analysts who three years ago claimed the now fading netbook category would ship 50m units in 2012.

The truth is tablets have been a bitter and unexpected pill for Google to swallow and it appears to be simultaneously plotting their downfall as much as planning for their success. With time Android may yet enjoy the success on tablets it has enjoyed on smartphones, but we get the feeling Google would really prefer them to just go away...


October 24, 2011, 8:29 pm

I'm not buying this... it's one thing to state Google were less than prepared for the unexpected success of tablets - it's something else altogether to claim that Google wish tablets would go away.


October 25, 2011, 2:56 pm

I agree with KultiVator. Google were so busy trying to catch up with the iPhone that they just hadn't really considered tablets. Previous tablets had failed as they had just been laptops with the screen on back to front, rather than a giant iPod touch. They put out a rush job to try to catch up with the iPad, and now they're doing it properly.

Phones will never grow to be anything like as big as tablets, since anything much over 4.5" (diagonal) starts getting ridiculous. And that's still less than 1/4 the screen area of a tablet. The main reason for making screens bigger is that for most specs 'bigger is better'. So companies are testing whether this proves a selling point vs. the iPhone, which seems fixed at 3.5".

The iPhone's screen size may tied partly to allowing compatibility with iPod docks that fit a Classic, but comfortable one-handed operation is useful too.


October 25, 2011, 11:01 pm

That's why this is called 'Opinion'.


October 25, 2011, 11:02 pm

It would certainly be simpler for Google had they gone away. That fact is indisputable, so it seems perfectly fair to assume it would prefer this route. Hopefully Google will make a compelling tablet, but so far it has spent 12 months treading water.

Daniel Gerson

October 26, 2011, 1:06 am

I think you're spot on Gordon.
I'd also be backing Microsoft in this boxing match.
Google is unlikely to win the immediate next round... but they'll be waiting in the wings.

I think longer term, it's all how the Internet develops that determines where Google's place in tablets will be or not be. I think it would be beneficial for Google to follow Microsoft into Games (xbox)....


October 28, 2011, 7:32 pm

But Gordon - Google aren't in the business of making tablets, no more than Microsoft are in the business of building desktops, servers, laptops and Netbooks.

I'm sure Google also don't mind the kudos of there being thousands of different me-too android tablets out there all running their skinned Linux with cloned Java-Sandbox platform - even if 99% of these are shockingly gimped products.

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