Remember the spectacular failure that was Google's Android smartphone store? Apparently Google doesn't, because it is going to resurrect the idea, but this time with tablets instead of Nexus smartphones. It almost seems as if Google is trying to crash and burn with this plan.
Citing sources familiar with Google's plans, The Wall Street Journal reports that Google wants to win tablet market share from Apple's iPad and Amazon's Kindle, and to do that it will sell devices that are co-branded with its hardware manufacturer. Rather than sell just one Google-branded tablet from a single OEM, the search giant will offer several devices from a range of manufacturers. The Journal lists Motorola (which Google is in the process of acquiring), Samsung, and Asus as possible hardware partners, noting that the companies would be responsible for designing the tablet. Asus, apparently, is on deck to offer the first tablet and will likely have an exclusive spot as the lone device available for a short time.
Part of the impetus behind this project is that Google thinks the current model for selling Android tablets is broken. Android smartphones may be selling like hotcakes thanks to the U.S. carrier subsidization model, but similar efforts to sell Android tablets have fallen flat.
I agree with Google's viewpoint here. Buying a tablet at a subsidized cost with a two-year contract makes no sense at all. Consumers are much better off spending the extra $100 - $200 to buy the tablet outright and choose a month-to-month data plan if they need one. The problem, however, is that Android tablets often cost as much as, if not more than, Apple's successful iPad.
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The Journal's sources suggested that Google may somehow subsidize the cost of tablets, perhaps through on-device advertising, as Amazon does with some of its Kindle products. Google may also back up its online tablet store with a massive marketing campaign to raise awareness, including television spots, web-based ads, and promotions on the Google Play Store.
Beyond that, details about Google's tablet plans are hazy at best. Google is expected to unveil the next version of Android later this year. Android 5.0--Jelly Bean--could arrive as early as Google's developer conference in late June, but it is more likely to show up in the fourth quarter. Aside from semi-regular application updates, Google has been silent on its future Android plans.
The company is likely saving its big news for I/O, which is a hot event in the developer space. Tickets for I/O--priced at $900 a pop--recently sold out in less than 30 minutes. You'd think Google I/O was a rock concert, not a developer conference.
Whatever Google's plans are, it clearly needs to be more aggressive and (hopefully) successful than it was with the Nexus smartphone store. Android tablets are gaining some traction against the iPad, but not quickly enough.
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