updated 10:40 am EDT, Sun May 15, 2011
NVIDIA CEO explains slow uptake of Android tablets
Android 3.0 tablets aren't selling well because their creators don't understand retail, NVIDIA chief Jen-Hsun Huang said in a talk conducted on Thursday. He believed that early manufacturers, so far including Acer, ASUS, Dell, LG, and Motorola, didn't understand how to sell their tablets at retail. Although not mentioning Apple by name, he implied to CNET that the iPad's lower pricing, clearer marketing, and better buying experience at retail were all impacting the chances of tablets like the Motorola Xoom, which he singled out as an example of what went wrong.
"The baseline configuration [of the Xoom] included 3G when it shouldn't have," he said in reference to Verizon's minimum $800 asking price. "Tablets should have a Wi-Fi configuration and be more affordable. And those are the ones that were selling more rapidly than the 3G and fully configured ones."
Many Android tablet manufacturers, including LG, Motorola, and Samsung, initially assumed they could succeed with tablets by repeating the carrier-first strategy they took with smartphones. The G-Slate, Xoom, and first Galaxy Tab all started off as 3G models priced above Wi-Fi iPads and, in the case of the Xoom, above even the 32GB 3G iPad it was meant to compete against. Tying them to a provider, even without a contract, has both limited their retail reach as well as discouraged buyers who assumed they might have to pay a monthly rate just to use a given tablet at all.
Acer, ASUS, Motorola, and Samsung have mostly addressed the cost and distribution issues by launching Wi-Fi versions. Their lack of dedicated retail footprints may still be an issue as the companies often have to compete side-by-side with each other where Apple often gets special attention even in large general stores like Best Buy.
Huang also acknowledged a commonly cited deficit in native apps, citing a "software richness of content problem." Despite being nearly three months old, Android 3.0 has only a few dozen optimized or native apps, many of which are simply ports of iPad titles. The iPad launched with as many as 1,000 native apps and now has over 65,000, almost all of which are exclusives.
The wide gap has previously been blamed on Google's rush to complete Android 3.0 so Motorola could have its tablet out on the market before the iPad 2. An official SDK came out less than a month before the Xoom itself and gave developers little time to write apps. Android Market's historical trouble with properly exposing new apps might also be an issue and might not improve until a third store redesign coming soon.