Android Tablet Problem Is Not Lack of Apps, but Too Much Crap

Last Updated May 17, 2011 10:18 AM EDT

Fear not, all you Android tablet vendors, because the answers to all your problems are simple and easy. Motorola Mobility (MMI) CEO Sanjay Jha said that consumers want more apps. Oh, wait, Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia (NVDA), says you have to fix your consumer marketing, retail channels, and prices. Oh, and find more apps.
But looking at the details of what has slowed adoption of tablets running Google's (GOOG) mobile operating system can become a meaningless exercise in misdirection. Far better for vendors to boil things down to a simple proposition: Android tablets have done crap because they are crap. And what they have lacked is all due to the vendors, not a lack of apps.

To get beyond your problems, you need to know where you stand. At the moment, industry executives are still grasping for explanations, not coldly assessing reality. And the reality is that Android tablets have largely been crappy. You can't pin it down to one aspect, as there have a whole bunch of problems:

Yes, it's tempting to blame the slow adoption of Android tablets on a lack of apps. There's just one problem: It's wrong. Look at the history of Android smartphones. For years, the number of apps played catch-up with the number of iPhone apps. Even so, adoption of the phones raced along, growing far more rapidly than it should have if app availability were the driving issue.

People have assumed that lessons from the early days of PCs still apply. Those early machines needed software -- killer applications -- to make them useful. However, the iPhone sold well before the massive numbers of apps were available. Android handset sales ramped up quickly and the apps caught up. Why? Because smartphones could do useful things, such as make phone calls or handle Internet or text messaging, without third-party apps. Tablets let people surf the Web, listen to music, enjoy video, handle email, and many other things, all without an army of apps.

Looking somewhere over the app rainbow has become a self-destructive pastime for the industry. When you point to a lack of apps as the reason for failure, it becomes an excuse not to get better until the number increases. You bundle up your failings and drop them at someone else's door. No wonder it takes so long to make the fixes that might actually improve sales.

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Image: Flickr user rzrxtion, CC 2.0.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.