In advance of Google’s Honeycomb deep dive scheduled for this Wednesday February 2, I wanted to do a quick analysis of what Honeycomb means for the tablet market. I’ve been working with a number of the current Android tablets in the 7-inch range and have reached several conclusions about the form factor which I will provide more insight to in a later analysis.
One conclusion, however, that may seem completely obvious but which, from a software standpoint, has not historically been obvious for makers of hardware, is that some form-factors require software created specifically for that form-factor.
This was, to a degree, the observation made by Jeff Hawkins when he started Palm and brought to market the first Palm Pilot. Many of the products competing for handheld computers at the time were mini clamshell devices running either Windows CE or some proprietary OS.
Many of these devices were attempting to be very small versions of their notebook counterparts. Jeff Hawkins’ vision was that computing could take place in the palm of your hand and a new form factor as well as a new operating system was necessary to make that vision a reality.
The same is true in the tablet / touch computing market. These devices are not phones, nor are they clamshell PCs with a physical keyboard and mouse. Smartphone apps are built to work on a small screen. Clamshell notebooks and desktop software were made to work with a mouse and keyboard. This is why, for the tablet market to succeed, it will depend on an operating system and suite of applications that are purpose-built for a larger screen touch computer.
Honeycomb is Android built for tablets from the ground up. Not just the OS but the apps represent optimized versions for the larger touch screen. I pointed this out when the iPad first launched and I’ll point it out again for Android app developers. Apps need to be re-created not re-purposed for Honeycomb. For the Honeycomb software ecosystem to be successful it will require software that is not just optimized but specifically created for larger touch screens. More simply put, develop apps like it was your first app and the 10-inch screen is the only screen.
Nearly every major consumer products vendor I speak with on a regular basis wants a piece of the tablet market. They have very high hopes and to some degree are betting heavily on Android and in this case Honeycomb. We will see if Honeycomb delivers when we get to actually use a functioning version of the OS on Wednesday.
Honeycomb represents a real opportunity for vendors to compete in this space with the 800lb gorilla that is Apple. If Honeycomb does not deliver it could set vendors back again another six to eight months. All will be revealed on Wednesday and we will be there to report it. Check back on Wednesday for my first impressions and analysis of Honeycomb.