Google and tablets: what went wrong?

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What is a tablet? What should a tablet be and what should it be able to do? Nine years ago, these questions dominated discussions about new technology. Apple was preparing to present its first iPad, and its competitors – to rush into the battle for a new niche. The answer that surfaced at CES 2010 was the 8.9-inch HP Slate, a Windows 7 machine running on an Intel Atom processor. A few weeks later, iPad from Apple debuted with its 9.7-inch screen, as well as a chipset and software designed for mobile devices. A year later, Google released a version Android called Honeycomb, which was designed specifically for tablets.

Then no one had an understanding of what a tablet was. Everyone was guessing on the coffee grounds. Apple originally envisioned iPad to be the glamorous magazine equivalent of the Kindle from Amazon. iPad was intended to be more interactive, allowing work in applications, but most of its appeal to the audience was to be provided by digital magazines and comics created for this platform. Publishers quickly realized that the idea was too costly to develop, and in Apple they found that people were using iPad for many other purposes as well. The company's initial rejection of the stylus or keyboard was followed by generations of keyboard cases and Apple Pencils. If you briefly describe the history of development iPad from Apple, you get the following: learning, adaptation, evolution.

What was Google doing at that time? They didn't waste time, because they conquered the world of smartphones with their own Android. But bringing the OS to tablets has been a dramatic and continuous story of failure for Google. Think of the Xoom and Xyboard from Motorola, the Eee Pad Transformer from Asus, the 13-inch Toshiba Excite and a host of other devices from Acer, Dell, Lenovo and Google – they all promised users only disappointment. Android in the world of tablets, it looked passable only on a couple of 7-inch devices – Google Nexus 7 and Samsung Galaxy Tab, as well as on such niche gadgets sharpened for specific tasks as the Fire HD from Amazon and Nvidia's Shield Tablet – both devices are more about content than about OS.

The reason why Android was not successful as a tablet OS is obvious: Android was created for smartphones. Its system requirements match the capabilities of smartphones, its application library is designed to fit the smartphone screen, and all of its key features are tailored to the vertical orientation of the smartphone screen. Sure, smartphone screens have grown in size over the past ten years, but they seem to have already reached the limit beyond which the size of the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Tab begins. Android cannot expand indefinitely.

Google and tablets: what went wrong?

Trying to adapt Android to a 10-inch or larger display is about as productive as, for example, looking for clothes in a regular store for Yao Ming, a Chinese basketball player whose height is 2 meters 29 centimeters. Yes, there may be some suitable scarves, belts and ties, but everything else will be in trouble. After a series of failures, it came to Google. But instead of, so to speak, going to a tailor to buy custom-made clothes, the company began to look for a solution among clown outfits with its Chrome OS in the form in which it appeared on the frankly awkward Pixel Slate.

Android is an OS designed for smartphones. Chrome OS is an OS designed for laptops. Well, the mixture of apps for Android and software from Chrome that Google proposed in its Pixel Slate was a glitchy misunderstanding. It's very easy to fall into the trap of looking at the screen size of a tablet and deciding, “Oh, this looks like a laptop, let's shove laptop software in here!” Or be fooled by the touchscreen and announce: 'It's just an overgrown smartphone!' Very simple and … completely wrong. Do not do like this.

Despite the fact that tablets are close to smartphones and laptops, they are unique devices. And in order to get a good user experience on a tablet, you need an operating system that's built specifically for that purpose. What does it mean? It should have an intuitive touchscreen interface like a smartphone, but the larger screen should be used to its fullest, as should other higher features. And of course, on the tablet market, the role model in this regard remains iPad. Apple has developed a custom X version of its chipset for iPhone so that it can be applied in iPad, taking advantage of the larger battery and better cooling in the tablet. The company has also improved functionality iPad in major releases iOS, even though iPhone remains its most important product. This, along with the historically developed desire of developers to create applications specifically for iPad, creates a special user experience that is specific only to iPad.

Google and tablets: what went wrong?

And as long as Google continues its attempts to cross a hedgehog with a snake and pull its software for other platforms onto the tablet, it will continue to suffer defeat after defeat. Android Wear for smartwatches, renamed Wear OS, is another instructive example that illustrates a very simple truth: if you want to create this or that gadget at its best, its software must be developed specifically for it. Someone at Google simply had to study the long and sad history of how Microsoft tried to shrink Windows to a size that could fit into mobile devices (today's Surface Pro is two in one are good, however they are still more laptops than tablets). There is another illustrative example of useless wastefulness – the pursuit Intel for pseudo-mobile chipsets, which were simply stripped-down processors for PCs and laptops.

So, the future of technology is tied to greater software specialization, and nothing else. Already, the best fitness trackers are powered by lightweight software specifically designed to efficiently process biometric data. And the best cameras – which Google knows a lot about, by the way – couldn't have come without very deep, multi-layered customization of the underlying hardware.

Good software is incredibly difficult to create. And this forces pragmatic companies to succumb to temptation and take the easy route. So, any PC maker can just use Windows, and every smartphone developer can use the features Android. But Google isn't just one of the companies. And its main competitor in the tablet market, iPad from Apple, is not just one similar set of transistors and pixels. And to offer a worthy alternative iPad, it's time for Google to end its Dr. Frankenstein ambitions and look for a fresh approach to tablet design.

And the bitter truth so far sounds like this: almost anyone can create a good tablet. But very few are able to provide a good user experience to buyers of this tablet.

What do you think, dear readers? What do you think the current Android tablets lack and do they have a future?

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