Kindling a desire for Android tablets

While Android smartphone sales have been brisk – indeed,Android is top dog in the phone space – Android tablets haven’t reallycaught fire with the general public. 

There are probably more reasons why Android tablets havelagged in the market than there are Android tablet models out there, but it’seasy to think of a few key reasons: some are overpriced, some are a bit junkylooking, some are running older versions of the US, and in the eye of thegeneral public, most Android tablets just don’t have the zest appeal of theiPad.

There is one exception however, and that’s Amazon’s KindleFire (which seems more and more to have a very fitting name). In fact, thislittle powerhouse has now grabbed over 50 per cent of the tablet market in theUnited States despite the fact that it’s been launched into the market as ane-reader. By comparison, second place Samsung is all the way back at 15 percent.

The e-reader doubling as an Android tablet isn’t new, ofcourse – when Barnes and Noble released the Nook Color, hardware hackers quicklyfound a way to turn it into an Android tablet by rooting it and loading the OSfrom the SD slot. At the time, it was the cheapest Android tablet available,even though its hardware wasn’t much to write home about. But for $200, who wasgoing to complain about poopy performance?

Since that point, Amazon has launched the Kindle fire – alsoat a very competitive price point – and Canada’s Kobo has come out with theKobo Vox.  None of these tablets will winany performance contests, even though they’re getting better all the time.

But Amazon gets the nod here for pretty much the same reasonthat Apple does so well with the iPad: they have a content ecosystem to back upthe hardware itself. Not only can you get e-books for the Kindle Fire, but ifyou’re living in the States, you also have access to Amazon’s multimediacontent, such as movies, TV shows and music. Sure, there’s Google Play to fillin much of that content, but let’s be real: it’s no Amazon.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Barnes andNoble’s Nook down the road. The company has just settled with Microsoft after ayear-long patent battle, with Microsoft entering into a partnership withB&N. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Android is going to disappear fromthe Nook, but it’s easy enough to envision a version of the Nook rockingWindows 8 down the road. While that will certainly increase the diversity ofthe tablet space, it could ultimately end up being a threat to Amazon, and aloss for Android.