2011: The year of fierce competition

Today marks the day that has defined how the tablet wars will play out for the next several months. During the announcement for the Apple iPad 2 today, Apple has made the claim that 2011 is the year of the iPad 2. Some would beg to differ. As multiple manufacturers and software developers are working to put out the best product they can in 2011, there’s one company who’s already rising up to fight the competition: Google. With their release of Honeycomb, the game is officially on. But is it enough to rise up and take the crown?

Google is in a great position to rise to the top. Android for phones has caught on fast — faster than anyone could have imagined. Google is certainly at a disadvantage right now in the tablet market, but this is almost a comfortable position for them. When Google first launched Android for phones, the company was miles behind RIM, Apple, Nokia, and Palm. Just look at them now. Taking over the tablet market is possible, but it won’t be easy.

As far as cold hard specs go, manufacturers using Google’s OS are right up there with (if not ahead of) the competition. Unfortunately, that’s beginning to matter less and less. Apple has a huge lead with development, and they’ve now caught up on hardware. Realistically, however, it’s not so much about the specs or OS for most people, as it is the content available on the platform and the name behind it. The good thing is, development is picking up on Honeycomb and Android is now a household name. There’s already a decent selection of apps for Google’s tablet tweaked OS, and more are coming out everyday. It may not look like much compared to Apple’s 65,000 iPad specific apps, but it’s something; especially compared to the rest of the competition.

Yes that’s right, there are other players in this game. However large a disadvantage Google may have in the tablet market, other top tier companies have it even worse. While Palm’s HP’s TouchPad looks gorgeous and the BlackBerry PlayBook is just as slick as anyone’s tablet out there, that doesn’t matter. You think Google let Apple get too much of a head-start? HP and RIM aren’t even at the starting line yet. As far as how Google will fare against those companies, it’s hard not to think Andy will be using them as stepping stools to face Jobs himself.

But then there’s that pesky issue of price. This is going to be one of the hardest things for Google and their partners to overcome. The Motorola Xoom is $800 without a contract. I understand that a similar spec’d iPad 2 is close to that, but what really matters is that without a contract, that’s the cheapest you can get a Honeycomb based tablet for now. When everything is said and done, $800 is far too much for an introductory price. When you can get an iPad 2 that’s thinner, lighter, and faster than the old one, but for the same price, people are going to be sold. Especially next to a tablet that’s $300 more, with basically the same specs. Let’s also not forget that the original iPad has also been marked down to $400 for now. Yikes.

So essentially, that’s where we are right now. Waiting for cheaper tablets and more content on Android — to see what Google can actually do with the OS; waiting for RIM and HP to do something — anything; and waiting for Apple to do what Apple does best — set the stage for what’s to come. Google has taken the lead with what is to be expected in smartphones, and they’re moving in on tablets fast. The question still remains, will it be fast enough?

Image via Engadget

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