Failing again and again to make Android tablets competitive with the iPad, Google adapted Chrome OS to work well on 2-in-1s and convertibles. But with that strategy also an open question, the online giant has apparently had a change of heart. Now it believes that Android tablets are “the future of computing.”
“We believe that the future of computing is shifting towards more powerful and capable tablets,” a Google job listing for Senior Engineering Manager, Android Tablet App Experience notes. “We are working to deliver the next chapter of computing and input by launching seamless support across our platforms and hero experiences that unlock new and better ways of being productive and creative.”
(Thanks to 9to5Google for first pointing out the job listing.)
A couple of points to this claim.
If “the future of computing” really is “shifting towards more powerful and capable tablets,” then that future is all iPad. And Apple’s tablet realizes this vision right now, and it has, by far, the best capabilities and most expansive app and services ecosystems. The iPad is available in a variety of models and configurations, the base models are not expensive, and every single one of them is better than any Android or Chromebook tablet today. And that’s true across age groups, needs, and every other metric you care to mention. (“Apple haters” notwithstanding, I guess.)
The problem for Google is two-fold. It was too slow to adapt Android so that developers could customize their apps to work well on Android devices with bigger screens, as Apple did when it adapted iOS for the iPad and evolved it into iPadOS. (This may be due to its early tablets being 7-inch devices whereas Apple immediately went large.) And based solely on the evidence, Android developers have never been particularly incentivized to do so, despite Google’s more recent efforts; too many Android apps on tablets are still just stretched phone apps today. Meanwhile, “native” iPad apps—that is, apps that have been customized for that device aren’t just common, they’re the norm.
Today, you can buy cheap (in every sense of the word) tablets from Amazon, and you can select from a range of sometimes beautiful and expensive Samsung tablets, but neither does a thing to overcome the apps problem on Android. I don’t see Google fixing this.
One also wonders about Google’s ever-shifting priorities. After basically giving up on Android tablets, Google pushed to make Chromebooks compatible with Android apps and then adapted that platform for 2-in-1s and convertibles. But now it’s splitting Android to include an L variant for large screen (and folding/dual screen) devices and it’s suddenly interested in pure Android tablets again? What about Chromebooks? Is Google going to shift strategies yet again in another year or two?
Probably. But who cares? Just get an iPad.