With Motorola’s Xoom and Asus’ Transformer due to bring Android 3.0 tablets to the UK, where are the apps?
As tablets based on the new Honeycomb version of Android appear, critics have questioned Google’s moves to enforce a standard Android platform, and said there may be as few as 20 “real” apps for the devices.
Motorola’s Xoom tablet is due to appear in the UK next week, along with the Eee Transformer, but their ability to compete with the recently-launched Apple iPad 2 may be hurt by the shortage of tablet-optimised Android apps. Meanwhile, reports that Google wants to standardise Android hardware are causing alarm.
iPad 65,000, Honeycomb 20?
While Apple’s iPad 2 has 65,000 applications, excluding those designed for the iPhone. Honeycomb has far fewer, and commentators have been competing to offer lower numbers. While Steve Jobs criticised Honeycomb for only having 100 apps, during the iPad 2 launch, others have checked the Android Marketplace, and found reasons to whittle the number down further. Apple Insider counted 50, eliminating those that are not “featured for tablets”.
Blogger Justin Williams gets the number down to 20 by eliminating apps which have been “upconverted” to take notice of the bigger screen. “While it is a marginally better experience than trying to run an iPhone app on an iPad, I’m not counting it given that Apple doesn’t count the hundreds of thousands of iPhone exclusive apps in its 65,000 iPad app count,” said Williams. “There is little point in buying a $600 – $800 device just to run larger versions of apps you run on your phone.”
Williams ignored games in his count – which are included in Apple’s figure – however, the biggest factor is that the iPad has been out for a year, and built on the previous success of the iPhone’s App Store.
Sales of the Xoom have been weak in the US against the iPad 2, and Google may be losing friends in its efforts to shore up Android against fears of fragmentation, to make it more of a competitor to the iPhone. The company has been criticised for delaying the release of its Honeycomb source code, contrary to open source tradition, and new strictures on hardware vendors are apparently on the way.
DigiTimes has reported that Google is in talks with ARM to standardise hardware for Android tablets, and Business Week has said that Google is imposing “non-fragmentation” clauses on operators and other partners shipping Android devices, requiring them to limit the amount of software tweaking they do to devices before delivering them.
The most immediate problem for Honeycomb appears to be the apps, though: “No matter how many billions of dollars Google drains into the Android project to make it relevant in the tablet space, it will never succeed without a thriving app marketplace, ” warned Williams. “Maybe once Google releases its vice grip on the Android 3.0 source code and more tablets are out on the market, development efforts will ramp up.”