There seems to be an abundance of news surrounding tablets running Google's Android operating system, but there just haven't been many examples that have made it to market. Worse, those that have arrived in consumer hands have largely provided a lacklustre experience. But why has the tablet revolution failed to materialise in any meaningful way?
You say you want a revolution
A lot of sources are blaming the lack of a suitable software-environment for the delays. Within the ARM ecosystem - which is ideal for low-power portable devices - the most obvious choice of OS seems to be Android. However, Google itself has admitted that the current iteration, Froyo, just isn't ready for tablets.
The company's director of mobile products, Hugo Barra, specifically noted that "Android apps won't run on tablets," later adding that "Froyo is not optimised for tablets". Reports from GTC this week are also suggesting that the search giant may have gone as far as preventing - or at least dissuading - manufacturers from releasing devices because performance simply wasn't up to snuff. Instead, Google is recommending that they hold out for Android 3.0, codenamed Gingerbread, which is expected to be ready sometime in the fourth quarter of this year.
This would certainly seem to be a smart move. An unoptimised OS will undoubtedly lead to a poor experience for users, which will do nothing to establish the Android platform as a viable competitor to the runaway success that is Apple's iPad.
Of course, part of the reason for the Mac-maker's success is its control over the entire product, from hardware to software and apps, allowing almost every aspect to be optimised. Most other companies just don't have that luxury.
In an attempt to differentiate their devices, manufacturers from the ARM-Android ecosystem are also experimenting with different form factors and focuses, which often leads to sub-par devices. According to iSuppli's Rhoda Alexander, "you're going to see a spray-and-pray approach with a lot of the tablet market over the course of the next year as vendors throw a number of products out there to see what sticks".
Waiting for more
As a result, it's likely that we'll see a series of hit-and-miss devices over the coming months, with well-optimised Android 3.0 - or even Chrome OS - devices being delayed, possibly into the new year. Of course, the one wildcard is RIM, whose 'BlackPad' - which is rumoured to be announced next week - will run its own OS, giving it the potential to be more than just another ‘me-too' tablet.