02/08/2011 10:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bright Future for Tablet Computers


Motorola Zoom to run Android 3, AKA "Honeycomb"

Last week was a big one for tablet computing. Google formally showed off a version of Android for tablets, and Apple and News Corp. jointly unveiled the long-awaited daily "newspaper" for the iPad called The Daily.

Neither announcement came as a surprise, but together they spell a bright future for tablet devices.

Apple has sold nearly 15 million iPads since it first went on sale in April. That's a lot more than many analysts expected. Android 3.0, code named Honeycomb, is a new version of Android that Google says was "designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes, particularly tablets."

It looks as if Google hopes to do to the iPad what it did to the iPhone -- cut heavily into its sales. Android sales early last year were neck and neck with iPhone and Research In Motion's BlackBerry. But in the past six months, according to Nielsen, "Android is clearly in the lead with 43 percent of recent acquirers purchasing an Android device, compared to 26 percent for Apple iOS and 20 percent for BlackBerry's RIM."

Of course, that could change as a result of the Verizon iPhone. There undoubtedly are some potential Android phone buyers on Verizon who might opt for an iPhone once they have the choice.

Based on what I've seen of Honeycomb, it's likely to allow a number of manufacturers, including LG Electronics and Motorola Mobility, to produce tablets that will seriously rival the iPad in terms of quality, potentially at lower prices. But Apple isn't sitting still. There are widespread reports that an "iPhone 2″ will come out within the next few months with front- and rear-facing cameras and other features not on the current model.

As with the iPad, we can expect to see lots of apps for an Android tablet. Google has an ecosystem of developers second only to Apple it can call on to make Android tablets come to life with programs and content.

Shortly before Google held its Honeycomb news conference in Mountain View, News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch and Apple iTunes honcho Eddie Cue held a news conference in New York to announce The Daily, a new iPad-only daily "newspaper." Like News Corp.'s Wall Street Journal site, but unlike most other editorial websites, The Daily will be available only to paying subscribers after a two-week free trial period now under way.

Although my review of The Daily was mixed, I'm nevertheless bullish on the idea of using tablet devices for reading newspapers, magazines and books.

For the moment, at least, tablets have their limitations when it comes to producing content, but they are great for consuming it. And, in 2011, we can expect a lot more tablets to hit the market including some inexpensive ones, like those from Coby, that will cost under $200.

This post was adapted from Larry Magid's column in the San Jose Mercury News