In the last couple of weeks, the tech industry has seen a growing trend, actually more of a "surge," of Android-based devices take center stage. The increasing popularity of Google-OS based gadgets has analysts betting on the here-and-now Apple killer that is Android. But just when you thought the Android tidal wave was set to wash over the technology horizon, here comes Steve Jobs with the iPad 2.
The iPad 2, recently demonstrated by a thinner-yet-more-enthusiastic Jobs at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center, highlighted the lively new features of the next-gen device. Riding the the coattail success of the first Apple tablet, the iPad 2 brings more ammo to the digital fight.
The iPad 2 is actually thinner than the iPhone 4. It now sports a camera, and it is almost twice as fast as the first iPad. Add to this, the fact that the iPad 2 will see almost simultaneous launch with both AT&T and Verizon -- this means a hefty install base just waiting for the next great thing to spend their economy-crunched dollars on.
But hovering in the fray is an ever-inflating bevy of Android tablets which promise to take on the iPad market head on. I say "iPad market" as opposed to "tablet market" because of the reality that Apple has the enviable position of defining the tablet market, and thus they can lay claim to all that is consumer tablets.
And of course, there are other offerings based on RIM and HP/Web-OS platforms, looking out from bomb shelters in the background. For now, it seems, they appear to be firing warning shots but not much else.
I, for one, look forward to the increasing competition in the tablet field. For consumers, it results in lower-priced offerings with more features, all vying for our affections (and dollars). Having experienced Android in person with an Android smartphone, I was immediately realizing the parallels in experience with Apple-based devices. I began to see that in fact Android DOES have a decent chance at collecting some market share in the tablet arena.
For Apple, the iPad 2 is their second barrage in the tablet war, only this time with bigger guns. The question remains, will Google be able to keep up the fight? With Android 3.0 Froyo as its latest weapon, will this enhanced Android experience be enough to maintain the surge of popularity? And secondly, with the leverage and install base that Apple commands, will Android be content with a minor piece of the pie? In some ways, this may be the best they can hope for.
Through all of the development "flailing and reaching" that Apple competitors have gone through, they have landed a blow with Android. But as any technology follower will tell you, an operating system alone does not win over end users. Perhaps this is the advantage and momentum that Apple carries into battle - by controlling both hardware and operating system, they can customize the end user experience in ways that competitors (with their piecemeal approaches) just can't.
Keep your eyes on the tablet horizon. As the tide settles, it will be interesting to watch and see which direction tech users flock towards.
Because like in any war, sometimes the best bet on the battlefield is to see where everyone else is going, and just follow their lead.
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