A great many tablets being announced at the moment are going to be running on the Android OS from Google. But that’s not something which Google is in support of at this time.
Tech manufacturers which are creating their own tablets to compete with the iPad, which is most of them, are invariably choosing Google Android as the operating system of choice for their devices. And why not? As good as Windows 7 is it’s not really seen as being suitable for tablets in their current form, mainly because it needs powerful hardware to work in a way that won’t frustrate. So Android it is.
The problem is that Google itself doesn’t seem keen on Android being used in tablets. At least the current version, Android 2.2 (Froyo). Hugo Barra, director of products for mobile at Google, recently told TechRadar:
Android is an open platform. We saw at IFA 2010 all sorts of devices running Android, so it is already running on tablets. But the way Android Market works is it’s not going to be available on devices that don’t allow applications to run correctly. Which devices do, and which don’t will be unit specific, but Froyo is not optimized for use on tablets. If you want Android market on that platform, the apps just wouldn’t run, [Froyo] is just not designed for that form factor.
To paraphrase, don’t buy a tablet running Android 2.2 as you could end up being disappointed. And Google doesn’t want that as it could put people off Android for life.
The good news is that the next two releases being developed, Gingerbread and Honeycomb, are expected to be designed with tablets in mind, and are therefore going to be optimized for use on the form factor. Gingerbread is scheduled for release by the end of the year, while Honeycomb will likely appear in the first half of 2011.
Where does this leave the Galaxy Tab, which runs on Froyo? The Samsung tablet is fine, apparently, because it operates more like a giant phone than an out-and-out tablet. And it will also be upgradeable to Gingerbread.