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Is Google confused with its tablet strategy?

updated 10:10 pm EDT, Thu August 26, 2010

Editorial: Google hurts own chance at beating iPad

(Editorial) There is little debating the importance of the tablet space nowadays. And the arguments that can be made in its favor are as well-known as Apple itself. But that doesn't mean that simply throwing any device on store shelves is a good idea. It also doesn't mean that, just because a firm is successful in other markets, it will enjoy similar success in the tablet space.

Case in point: Google.

The search company is starting to make inroads into the tablet market byway of Android OS. The mobile operating system, which is available to smartphone and tablet makers, most recently launched on Dell's Streak and soon to come Samsung Galaxy Tab.

But now reports are swirling that HTC, a key Google partner in the smartphone market, is developing a Chrome OS-based tablet to compete with Apple's iPad. And if true, the device would also compete with every Android-based tablet on the market, as well.

Google's decision to potentially offer both operating systems in the tablet space is suspect, to say the least. I understand that the company wants to steal market share away from Apple, and by doing so, it can potentially bolster its revenue in that market. But why would it want to compete against itself?

The first rule of any well-run organization is to not cannibalize another product or division. But by giving vendors their choice of software, Google is doing just that. And in the process, it looks all the more confused as Apple proves that a single, well-designed operating system will get the job done every time.

Of course, Google might feel differently. It might believe that Chrome OS and Android OS are distinct in the markets they target, and it believes that it would make sense to offer the software packages to companies. And while that's certainly possible and Google could eventually be proven correct, it's hard to see how that makes much sense right now.

Google is be a wildly successful company that has proven to perform well with every product it offers, but that doesn't mean that it can enjoy the same success in the tablet space by splitting its market. Apple's iPad is successful because it delivers an experience that consumers know and love. But if consumers are looking at Google's offerings, they will need to decide if they want Android or Chrome. And then, the inevitable confusion and issues with certain aspects of both operating systems would arise. Do you value apps or the web? You can't quite have both in Google's world.

Going forward, it seems likely that Google will offer two operating systems in the tablet market. And although it could turn out to be a good idea, the confusion and market-share issues it would create could prove to be a mistake.

At this point, the company's seeming confusion only shows all the more that a multi-OS strategy isn't the best idea in the tablet market -- especially when Apple has proven that one can work very well.

By Don Reisinger]

by MacNN Staff



  1. cmoney

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Just seeing what sticks

    The tablet market is kind of a free-for-all right now. While the iPad is the apparent king of the hill, it's early times. Tablets done right could easily eclipse traditional PCs and laptops in the next 5-10 years; that's a big market. Google may simply be throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks and Android represents the traditional approach and ChromeOS their idealist approach.

    But I do think Google has dropped the ball by not producing at least a reference tablet design. By letting everyone do their own thing, the app market becomes hugely segmented and you'll never know if an app looks good on your particular device. Sure good developers can design their apps around this but it's one more speed bump that most people will ignore.

    If there's any company that can afford the resources to do all this, it's Google. And regardless of which approach wins out, you can be sure the experience and knowledge gained from the losing platform will be incorporated in the other.

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Sergey Brin said Chrome OS is the future

    Chrome OS is a way for Google to hedge their bets and to help eliminate the fatal software and hardware fragmentation that Android has created. And now that Oracle has brought their Java non-compliance lawsuit (which does have merit), Google has no choice but to rush Chrome OS out the door.

    So maybe Google isn't confused at all. They see the mess they've created with Android. They see that Android software will be "impounded and destroyed" as per the lawsuit. So now it's time to face cold hard reality and start testing Chrome OS.

    They're going to try to sell devices running it, at beta-test quality, for a year or so to let their developers try to catch up to Apple. That's what Google did with Android, and they seem to be keeping in character. Always a year behind.

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    That's what they did with Wave

    @ cmoney - "Google may simply be throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks..."

    Amen to that. Kind of like Microsoft's approach to the mobile market so far. WinCE? No. Pocket PC? Nope. Windows Mobile? Almost stuck, but no.

    Wave was kind of like that too. Dump out a new thing and see if anyone uses it.

  1. aardman

    Joined: Dec 1969



    "The first rule of any well-run organization is to not cannibalize another product or division."

    I beg to differ. I believe that in the high tech business, if you don't cannibalize your own product, your competitors will do it for you. Which is really the same thing as "skating to where the puck will be, not to where it is."

  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I think that Google just wants to get some

    tablet market share anyway it can. So it's trying two different OSes. I don't see the problem with that. I suspect the tablet market is large enough so that both Android and Chrome could have market share. I say that Google should take the risk. If one doesn't work out too well, then use the other. It may not be to the point of dethroning Apple's, but sales are sales. It's unfortunate that these companies are getting into tablets with the sole purpose in mind of beating Apple. Don't they seem to have any interest in what the consumer wants. Apple wouldn't build netbooks because they said the netbook devices were crappy for users. Apple was working on it's iPad as a device that would be relatively user friendly with a nice bright screen, had good battery life and ran applications quickly. In theory, Apple could have tried to design a better netbook but didn't.

    All these companies jumping on the tablet bandwagon are always talking about taking Apple down instead of focusing on will a consumer find the product useful. Selling tablets just so Apple doesn't make all the bucks is a very poor reason for pursuing the iPad. Anyway, Apple is neck-deep in moving iPads and isn't holding anything back. Apple has all the tools to do so. Hardware, OS, software, media, retail, marketing, customer service and enough cash to order tens of millions of components up front or start their own factories if necessary. There is absolutely no way that any rival can outsell the iPad.

  1. entropy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    "The first rule of any well-run organization is to not cannibalize another product or division."

    Knowing better than to hew to such an absurdly stupid idea is why Apple succeeds where everyone else fails. They've never been afraid to replace great products at the peak of their success with new, better products. Apple II, iPod Mini, MacOS, iPod (with iPhone) and now the Mac itself, with iPad.

    "If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it's worth, and get busy on the next great thing."-- Fortune, Feb. 19, 1996

  1. bonaccij

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Take a step back

    Being a technologist, I hear about this stuff all the time. "Google should do this... Microsoft should do that... to take down the iPad". I really think this is just the silliest of debates. I have to agree with Iphonerulez, that Apple could have gone into the Netbook game-but they chose not to. They chose not to because they have an extremely clear vision. Computing should make sense. Until they could ship a device that could make sense to... I dunno... Grandma, I guess, they weren't going to be happy. That is exactly what they did. They put out a device that simply wasn't like anything else in the market to see how it would fare, and guess what? People LOVED it. More importantly, Grandma loved it . Good for them! The sticker here is, they have sort of captured a new, undefined space. Big corps see that and they want a piece of the pie. Simple, really.

    Here's where it all gets sticky. If we had no patent laws, and people could just rip off other companies, believe me, that is exactly what would be happening! Other corps are trying to mimmic the success of the pad and, really, just sort of failing because they can't meet consumer needs. People have to step back and remember that Apple was actually working on the iPad long before the iPhone. The path was clear, the direction was set. These other companies, trying to, now, scramble and put out their iPad killers are in for a rough ride. They have no direction. They have no goals other than "make a better iPad..." and I think that is a recipe for failure.

    Google, Microsoft, TAKE YOUR TIME!!! figure out what your consumers want! God knows there are enough Android and MS loyalists out there. Find your path, nail own your objectives and produce something that, in the end, serves the market YOU have captured. Make your followers want your device as much as people crave "The Pad". Show your audience that you care more about what they do with their computing from day to day, instead of trying to mimmic and crush another competitor. Just make a good, solid product and people will flock to it. C'mon, y'all have enough $$ to do that. The one lead you should be following from Apple is to take your time.

  1. bazaarsoft

    Joined: Dec 1969


    How is Google making money?

    You have to look at how Google is making money. They don't make money from OS licensing costs - they make money from advertising and websites. So, from Google's perspective, who gives a c*** if it's Android or Chrome OS? It all boils down to additional ad or web revenue - market share doesn't mean what it does to MSFT.

    The real question that NOBODY is asking is if those two revenue streams will be enough to keep Google in the game, or is there a building pressure for licensing coming? Google gets hardware makers addicted to Android and/or Chrome OS, they get more and more pressure to improve those systems, but will they have the revenue to put the muscle behind it without licensing revenue?

    I, for one, don't believe Google can continue for many years with their current revenue model.

  1. DeezNutts

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Sergey Brin said Chrome OS is the future

    LOL I'll believe the Oracle lawsuit has merit because I read it from some random poster on macnn! You betcha buddy!

    Its a little too early in the process to determine if any of it has 'merit' at this point. This thing will drag out for years (quite possibly) and its not a clear cut case in anyone's favor. Java EE is open source so there is nothing clear or 'having merit' in Oracle's favor that I have seen or read.

    Its a strategic power play by Larry Ellison and Co. and it may not pan out the way they hope!

    Its far from over or h*** even started is what I'm trying to say. lol.

  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The world is a scary confusing place

    Google doesn't need order.

    They don't need clearly defined choices.

    They are comfortable with varied.

    It's all about searching for the answer, versus the old style - categorized answers.

    It's not just about Google' idea for indexing the web versus Yahoo's(now abandoned and forgotten) way of doing the same.

    It's about everything - life is chaotic, deal with it. Frankly it doesn't matter of Google is confused.

    They admit they are confused, and are perpetually confused. They don't try to divine answers, they just read them when they become known.

    This freaks some people out, who aren't conceptual thinkers - they don't know how this could possibly work.

    Well for you, i say, just watch google's profit and loss statement - if they have a profit, I guess you'll have to conclude it does work - even if, you know its impossible that its working. ;-)

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