I came across an article from Ara Wagoner at Android Central today that I found really interesting. Basically, she takes Google to task for giving up on developing Android for tablets, not optimizing Chrome OS further for use on tablets, and especially for not encouraging developers to create apps that work better with larger screens. It’s a viewpoint that I happen to agree with, and not just because I’m an Apple fan.
It’s easy to just pile on as a fan of a completing platform when you see someone on that side taking shots at their own. However, that’s not really what I’m interested in doing. Rather, I agree wholeheartedly with her thoughts, especially this statement in the opening paragraph.
When we shell out hundreds for the best phones, tablets and laptops, to say nothing of all the services we spend our time in and our money on — we expect the manufacturers and tech giants responsible for these devices and services to give it their all, to battle for supremacy and build off each other in order to give us the best experience. It’s what we deserve. Instead, at least when it comes to one section of the market, what we have instead is a battle where the outcome is all but certain and one side’s efforts are almost comically lackluster, to the detriment of all: the way Android tablets — and especially tablet apps — continue to be a complete laughingstock compared to iPad.
It’s that competition that the author speaks of that helps to drive the industry forward. Unfortunately, the only competition that the iPad really has right now is the Microsoft Surface, and that is sort of an indirect comparison. However, I do think the success that Microsoft has gained in mindshare has made an impact on Apple, as we have seen them add traditional input methods and a top-shelf keyboard and trackpad accessory to their own tablet platform in the last year.
Unfortunately, Google isn’t engaged in this competition in any meaningful way. Chrome OS tablets have real potential to be legitimate competition for the iPad and other platforms, but Google just doesn’t seem to care about pressing the issue. I own a Lenovo Chromebook Duet, but I can’t say that I’m all that engaged with it. It’s a cool device with an interesting form factor (with the included magnetic back and keyboard accessory) and a great price point. But that’s it. Unfortunately, there is nothing else about this device that’s really exciting or compelling. Most of that isn’t about the hardware, but the software and the lack of great tablet apps to go with it.
One thing I respect is a fan of a platform who is willing to call its issues out. Sometimes we fans can be the biggest critics of our favorite devices and OSs, so it’s always worth paying attention when we speak up. I’ve certainly taken Apple to task over different things over the years, and I see this article on Android/Chrome OS tablets the same way.
I have my doubts that an article like this one will make much a difference, as Google hasn’t been really interested in tablets in the last 5 to 7 years. However, it certainly can’t hurt to have those closest to them and their platforms calling them out over giving up on a hardware form factor that still proves to be very popular.