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Google Android Honeycomb Tablet Improves. Good Enough To Beat iPads?

Google (GOOG) announced Android 3, otherwise known as Honeycomb, the tablet version of the operating system. Apple's (AAPL) iPad has had the market virtually to itself since its introduction. The Android tablet that had big attention, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, turned out to have fudged sales numbers and a return rate 7.5 times higher than Apple's.

Can Honeycomb make the difference and let Android shoot ahead? Better to say that it could make a difference. Google has added some slick features. However, the company onfly has partial control over final products. If its hardware partners, which have significant control over how Android appears on their devices, can't figure out what works best for customers, it won't matter what Google provides.

Some of Google's changes seem smart:

  • Apps from previous versions of Android will run on Honeycomb tablets without alteration, although developers can create native apps.
  • The UI is greatly improved with what Engadget calls "some of the best-looking, smoothest-operating widgets we think we've ever seen on any platform."
  • Improved graphics include 2D and 3D effects and very smooth rendering.
  • Developers can write native Honeycomb apps to split into different panes.
  • The operating system natively supports video chat and has an improved camera app.
  • Consumers can use the new Android market from the web as well as from inside an Android device. They can also specify on which of their Android devices to install the app.
  • New features will also allow developers to enable in-app purchasing.
But one thing hasn't changed: Google's dependence on hardware vendors. Samsung seems to have had a big flop with the Galaxy Tab. It will take the right features, a smart eye on industrial design, and, of course, a reasonable price for an Android tablet to break out.

Then, there's Microsoft (MSFT). It seems odd to put the software giant almost as an afterthought, but it's incredibly late in getting Windows 7 tablets to market. Every day without a product in the market is a another day for consumers to learn that they don't need Windows. Windows Phone 7 sales didn't look that healthy last quarter (even taking into account that it launched between late October and early November). Right now, there's no reason to think that the tablets will do any better. Whenever they actually arrive.


Image, courtesy of Google.
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