Apple's newly launched iPad may be taking up the majority of consumer mindshare in the tablet category following its launch earlier this month, but Google is furtively working on a device of its own that will be powered exclusively by Android.
That's according to a report in The New York Times, which cited comments made by Google CEO Eric Schmidt at a recent Los Angeles party.
Google has been experimenting in stealth mode to explore content delivery options on a tablet device, according to Times sources who declined to be named.
HP, Microsoft, Nokia and Neofonie
Google, for its part, "doesn't comment on rumor or speculation," Google spokesperson Carolyn Penner told LinuxInsider.
There are others in the market as well. German company Neofonie on Monday announced its WePad device, which is due to go on sale soon.
Fears of Cannibalization
Indeed, amid all the hype and excitement surrounding Apple's well-publicized device, it's clear any new contender will have to offer something distinct to set it apart.
"The iPad is a great piece of hardware, but Apple is constrained in that it has other products that don't want to compete with the iPhone and MacBooks," Chris Hazelton, research director for mobile and wireless with the 451 Group, told LinuxInsider.
Google, on the other hand, "doesn't have products it needs to worry about cannibalizing," Hazelton pointed out.
'More Like a Computer'
The iPad, like the iPhone, is a "very good tool for displaying content," added Hazelton, but "it's still a little hard for the majority of users to author content on it."
The opportunity for Google, then -- and "also Nokia, who will either go with Meego or Win 7," Hazelton said -- is to develop a device that's "more like a computer."
Microsoft does want to leverage Windows 7's capabilities, but it's "up to hardware vendors that partner with Microsoft whether or not they want to have capable tablets that will eat into netbook sales," he suggested.
'A Computing Device, Not a Media Device'
"There's a huge potential here for Apple to run away with the tablet market like it did with the iPod," Hazelton added. "Hardware vendors don't want to see that happen again."
As a result, capable devices are in the works, including some that are "very open so they can handle all application environments -- Flash in particular," Hazelton said.
In short, in this category, "Kindle was 1.0," he observed. "iPad is 2.0, while Google needs to be 3.0, where the tablet is a computing device, not a media device."
One of the things that Apple does best with its products is that "it doesn't just release a product in a vacuum -- it releases an ecosystem," Allen Nogee, a principal analyst with In-Stat, told LinuxInsider.
"When the iPad was released, it had scores of applications available, content deals with leading publishers, iTunes, syncing, a full Office-type suite, a low-priced cellular broadband deal, and many more pieces," Nogee explained, "so the device was ready to go from day one. Google would need similar integration and partnerships."
It's difficult to "out-Apple Apple," he added. "Google would be wise to look for a few iPad weaknesses and aim a device at that area."
Specifically, two current weaknesses in the iPad right now are "the lack of a camera and good photo support and the lack of Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE) Flash," Nogee pointed out.
'Customers Don't Know What to Expect'
"Just like when the first iPhone came out and was a hit, it was still just a basic phone with some features," telecom analyst Jeff Kagan told LinuxInsider. "Then version two, three and the expected four bring more and more features that wow the user."
Similar developments can be expected from the iPad and its competitors, Kagan asserted.
In planning its own entry, "Google should not assume anything they put into the marketplace will be a hit," Kagan noted. "Their phone is lukewarm so far. They should put quite a bit of thinking into this and try to offer things beyond what customers think they want and need."
That, indeed, is part of the beauty of this new category, Kagan asserted: "Customers don't know what to expect yet. They are looking for someone to create a framework in their mind" -- something that will serve as the basis of comparison for every new product.
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