updated 09:50 am EST, Tue February 28, 2012
Company to 'double down' on Android tablets
Google is planning to "double down" on Android tablets in 2012, and take leadership away from Apple and the iPad, according to Google's senior VP for mobile, Andy Rubin. The executive spoke in a meeting with reporters yesterday at the ongoing Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, Spain. He noted that 12 million in Android tablet sales is "not insignificant, but less than I'd expect it to be if you really want to win," adding that "2012 is going to be the year that we double down and make sure we're winning in that space."
Rubin argued that the greatest problem for Android on tablets is that "there's no organized way for consumers to recognize it as a viable platform," and that Google wants people to see tablets as part of the larger Android universe. "The educated consumer realizes it now that they're either picking the Apple ecosystem or the Microsoft ecosystem or the Google ecosystem...we're going to do a better job at making people understand what ecosystem they're buying into."
Rubin dismissed implications that the lack of high-quality apps for Android tablets is an issue. "Android's unique in that it's a single platform that spans device types," he commented. "Fundamentally you shouldn't have to have a third-party developer build his app twice." He admitted, however, that "there has to be an education process and developers have to do the work" when it comes to making tablet-ready apps for Android. "They're already doing that work for other platforms."
A more serious issue is attracting people to a platform which so far has a fraction of the users of the iPad. "I can't force someone to write a tablet app," said Rubin. Developers are "looking at market share and...being frugal," he observed, though adding that "We're now starting to get on the radar, and I'm hoping people decide to put in the muscle and make their apps work great on tablets."
Regarding Google's buyout of Motorola, Rubin told reporters that while he "sponsored" the acquisition, he currently has "nothing to do with it....I don't even know who's running it." Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha is being replaced with Google's head of ad sales, Dennis Woodside, but Rubin remarked that he is "painfully aware" of concerns about the closeness of the two companies. He claimed that Google has "literally built a firewall" between its Android team and Motorola.
"I don't even know anything about their products, I haven't seen anything," said Rubin. "They're going to continue building Motorola branded devices and it's going to be the same team doing it." He denied the idea that other hardware makers might lose out to Motorola. The open-source nature of Android allegedly makes it "physically difficult for me to advantage somebody," according to Rubin, although companies chosen to build the flagship Nexus phones do get early access to new versions of the OS.
Rubin refused to comment on whether Motorola will still ship smartphones with things like custom skins or older versions of Android. "They're separate from me, and I'm going to continue to do my thing," he said. He moreover suggested that there would only be so much Google could do if it did want to interfere with Motorola. "Even if I was completely insane, it wouldn't make any sense for me to think that we could get Motorola to be 90-plus percent marketshare. It just isn't gonna happen."