If you follow technology, it’s no real surprise that Apple
was on track to announce the new iPad at its San Francisco event today, and
that’s just what happened.
Some of the feedback I heard online was that the launch of
the new iPad – which brings a 264 pixel-per-inch high definition Retina Display to the
tablet, amongst other new features – puts the Android tablet world even farther
in the rearview mirror than it was yesterday at this time. Whether or not you
buy that assessment comes down entirely to your perspective, and what you’re
looking for in a tablet, of course.
Apple’s largest strength is that they own the ecosystem –
the hardware and OS both comes out of the same mothercorp, and there’s one
single app store managing all of your app needs. By comparison, Android devices
are fragmented not only by manufacturer, hardware configuration and OS version,
but also in splintered Market silos curated by manufacturer, carrier, or other
Now, in some ways Apple is just catching up or even still
lagging behind: while the new iPad’s A5X processor has quad-core graphics, its
main processor is still only dual core, even while Android phones and tablets
are making the leap to quad-core processors. And while Apple’s iCloud is a step
in the right direction for sharing content between devices, Android tablets
generally have removable SD storage, as well as other ports (like USB) to get
data off the devices.
Android’s entire infrastructure is one that makes it
possible for manufacturers to innovate outside the bounds of one single
authority – if you want something that the iPad doesn’t provide in its
hardware, you’re pretty much boned until Apple makes it available. With
Android, you don’t have to wait for Google to act - there may already be a
manufacturer that’s doing just what you crave.
Earlier today I had the opportunity to see a feature made
possible by Samsung’s consumer electronics footprint: you can be watching
content on your Samsung television, but you could then redirect your live television
signal to your Android-based Samsung smartphone or tablet. That way, you don’t
have to miss a second of the game even when you have to head out to the deck to
flip the steaks on the barbeque. While it would be nice to see that sort of
thing on Apple, it’s just not possible without bringing extra hardware into the
equation, and even then it wouldn’t work anywhere near as smoothly.
Apple has made a big deal of its devices all working really
well with each other – you can play iPad content to your AppleTV over your WiFi
network using AirPlay. You can automatically sync your contacts and content
with your computer using iCloud. It all works really well together, even if it
doesn’t have all of the features that people would like.
So the really big frustration with Android is that for these
types of things to occur, it seems like you really need to go all-in with the
same manufacturer, buying their devices across the board if you want an optimal
While it would be nice for all of the Android players to get
together and decide on interoperability between Android apps and consumer
devices, ala the DLNA protocols, it’s really hard to see how that’s going to
happen any time soon. After all, Android OS 4 is out but you can still buy
brand new devices running Android 2.3, some of which don’t even have a clear
upgrade roadmap. Things are so fractured it’s not funny.
There’s so much potential in the world of Android devices,
especially how we integrate them into the rest of our consumer electronics
world. Still, even with the overall share of Android it’s still sometimes hard
not to see the platform as several strong players standing tall while everyone else fumbles around, wearing
blindfolds. It could be so much better than that.