Google is almost ready to start selling its own tablet. The device, according to the New York Times, will be “an e-reader that would function like a computer.” So close is it that Eric Schmidt, CEO at Google, was describing it to friends at “a recent party in Los Angeles.”
The slate-like computer will run Android, and anonymous sources say that Google has already been working with publishers to put books and magazines on the device.
The choice of Android seems odd, given that Google is committed to the Chrome OS on the netbook platform. But Chrome will be an almost non-existent operating system, offering just enough software to load a browser and access Google’s online services. Android, on the other hand, is already well-developed and full-featured enough to offer all that you get from Apple’s iPad. It is also designed to be used on a touchscreen device, something that can’t be said for a skinned desktop OS like Windows 7.
A Google tablet could be the only tablet capable of actually challenging the iPad, avoiding the iPod whitewash in which Apple thrashed everyone, even Sony. It would also have some advantages. Google’s services, for one. Apple still doesn’t get the cloud, and getting data on and off the iPad is still largely done over a USB cable. Android is also the only other real player in apps with the Android Marketplace. It is way behind the iTunes App Store in numbers, but is at least in second place.
And don’t forget Google books, the Google Reader and Google Voice (soon to feature desktop VoIP, thanks to the recent purchase of Skype-rival Gizmo). Add in the fact that Google is committed to an open platform for which anyone can develop software (unlike Apple’s closed ecosystem), and you have a tablet that could be the perfect opposite of Apple’s.
Will Google march ahead and beat Apple like Microsoft did with Windows in the 1990s? We doubt it: We have a feeling that Microsoft is the one in trouble this time, at least in the mobile industry. One thing is for sure, though. Even if you’re a huge fan of the iPad, having Google nipping at its heels will keep Apple focused and everyone will benefit. At least the free market is good for something.