Today is the day – the first Honeycomb tablet officially hits the market today, arriving at Verizon stores and Best Buys across the United States. And on the 2nd we will finally hear from Apple about their new iteration of the iPad. The year of the tablet is officially underway and that means there will soon be more tablets than we know what to do with crowding shelf space at your local electronics store. What role will Android play in the new market and how will the platform develop in 2011? Right now we are still guessing, but there are quite a few possibilities.
Full Android Functionality
For those that wanted a full scale PC experience on a tablet computer, the early Android releases like the Galaxy Tab were a little disappointing. Samsung’s first foray into the tablet market was impressive, but it was pared down quite a bit due to the use of Android 2.2, an OS designed for mobile phones.
With Honeycomb finally here, we will likely start to see new apps and possibly even new tablets that can do exciting things. It will still be a bit of time though before the apps roll in as the final Honeycomb SDK was just released on Tuesday. But, with new tablets coming from the likes of LG and Toshiba, plus Motorola throwing quite a bit of marketing weight into their first slate, Android is getting a strong push in 2011.
An area we should keep a close eye is the enterprise. Companies are clamoring right now to adopt and integrate tablet PCs into their technology plans. But, thus far only the iPad has made an impact in the enterprise community, mostly because there were so few competitors in 2010. Even though Apple claims 80% of Fortune 500 companies are exploring enterprise use of the iPad, I imagine many will take a closer look at Honeycomb tablets as a potential alternative in 2011.
The iPad is not built for enterprise use, and while Apple has produced a handful of features and is expanding support for enterprise on the platform, the open nature of Android is friendlier for IT departments that must contend with support tickets and content control on a mobile scale. Third party companies are already arriving with solutions for Android like push app installation, remote support and rebooting, remote content control, and lost or stolen device detection.
And while BlackBerry Playbook will surely be a factor in the enterprise discussion this year, until it is released, there is no way to know if it will be the device to fill the gaping hole in enterprise mobility or if Honeycomb can make headway in that market.
What Happens Next?
Everyone wants to know what happens next – will Apple slide in market share to Android as it did in the smart phone market? Or will Apple’s commanding lead be bolstered by the iPad 2, likely arriving sometime between April and June? It is impossible to know for sure, but one thing is for certain – the arrival of Honeycomb is going to have a big impact on the tablet market and we will all be watching very closely.