Android + eReaders First Stirrings of iPad Challenge?

Recently, we looked at whether Android tablets would inevitably “catch up” with iPad in a couple of years; and/or whether some more radical approach to tablets might be possible.

There are signs of both today.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Michael Dell said:

What’s also interesting is Apple’s great success with the iPhone. Android comes along, even greater success. I think you’ll see the same thing on tablets, with enormous numbers of Android tablets with Dell certainly playing a role in that as well.

Interesting for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, he simply doesn’t mention Microsoft as a factor in tablets at all; if Dell doesn’t think Microsoft will have anything to offer in tablets, Microsoft have lost one of their most loyal supports to the Google/Android camp.

Secondly, Dell has a long history as an assembler of commodity components, innovating in distribution not product. They are the very picture of the mass market. If they believe that, two years from now, the tablet mass market will be Android, then they might just be right.

So much for the “low cost copy-cat” Android challenge. What about tablet innovation?

One way to innovate on product is actually to narrow functionality – or, to put it another way, to focus the tablet on one primary use case, making it unlike the multi-function iPad.

Barnes and Nobel just released their latest “Nook Color” update. The Nook Color is an 7″ eReader; with its new update, it gains support for several Android applications, including web browsing with Flash, email, and even the Angry Birds game. 7″ eReaders can be much lighter (Kindle is only 40% of the weight of an iPad) and much more portable than an 10″ iPad. And by focussing on the experience of reading, with supplemental support for email, the social web, and regular web browsing, they could take a real bite out of the tablet market.

eReading probably isn’t a way in for a start-up – Amazon in particular holds too many of the cards in that game – but it could be one way in which innovative Android-derived tablet products start to unlock iPad’s hold on the market.


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