Two things are going to happen during the next two weeks that have the potential to completely obliterate any chance of Android tablets ever taking off. One, Apple is going to announce a smaller iPad on October 23rd. According to the rumors, the base model is going to retail for 250 Euros. Add an extra 100 Euros to that and you can get cellular connectivity. Two, Microsoft is going to launch Windows 8 and their Surface tablet that runs Windows RT on October 26th. Rumor has it that Microsoft is going to spend as much as $1.8 billion promoting their new operating system.
If you’re an Android fan, both of these events spell bad news. Starting with the cheaper iPad, let’s all just confess something that we know to be true, but are afraid to say: People buy Android tablets because they’re cheaper than anything Apple makes. The Nexus 7, as much as we love it, is proving to be popular because it’s less than half the cost of a new iPad and exactly half the cost of the “old” iPad 2. We know Android is a superior operating system that enables people to be more productive, but at the end of the day it’s the price tag that drives the masses to Android.
With a 250 Euro iPad mini, which we assume will be $299 in the USA, people will not only be given a chance to enter Apple’s ecosystem for what’s arguably an “affordable” price, they’ll also have a chance to buy something that they know will give them access to a ton of high quality applications that are optimized for the tablet form factor. Again, we love the Nexus 7, but most of the apps in the Google Play Store are just scaled up phone applications.
Then there’s Windows 8. Now yes, we know that the PC market has effectively peaked and that it’s even starting to shrink, but Microsoft’s brand is still incredibly powerful. Think about this: Windows 7 came out three years ago. That means a ton of people bought new computers in 2009 to have a go at playing with the new OS. Those machines are due for an upgrade. People walking into stores are considering buying a tablet, because that’s all people seem to talk about these days. When those people step into a retail store and see the computer section filled to capacity with Windows 8 machines that are touch enabled, do you really think they’re going to go for something with Android on-board?
And speaking about retail stores, that’s a huge problem for Google. Walk into just about any shop and you’ll see Windows machines from a variety of companies, you’ll see Apple’s products, of course, but what about tablets running Android? What incentive does a store have to sell you a $200 Android tablet when they’d much rather you buy a $600+ laptop?
The Surface is a wildcard. Microsoft entering the hardware space is a dangerous move, but if it works then the payoff will be huge. Will people want to buy a Microsoft computer instead of one made by HP or Lenovo? It’s too early to tell.
So can Google do anything to lure people to their ecosystem? Yes and no. Google can pull an Amazon and sell their hardware at cost, meaning that they’re not going to make or lose any money, but then again that would piss off their partners who are already furious enough as is that Microsoft is entering the hardware game. Maybe the big PC makers are so angry at Microsoft that they’re all going to start experimenting with Chromebooks?
The air is thick with uncertainty, which makes the next few months that much more exciting.