The New York Times reported today Google was hard at work on a tablet computer to rival the iPad. Although specifications were not released nor timelines or prices confirmed, the article did provide some interesting insight into a new front in the current war between Google and Apple.
The real news in the item isn’t that Google is working on a tablet computer. You could safely assume Microsoft and Google had been researching the area long before news of the Courier project or this Google tablet broke. What is interesting is how many of the items cited in the article, and attributed to the Google tablet, are barbs pointed directly at Apple.
The first such barb is Eric Schmidt’s revelation the tablet will run Android. This may not seem like big news considering the connection between Android and Google. What you do have to consider though is why Google would select Android over Chrome OS. Forgot about that didn’t you? Chrome OS of course was supposed to be Google’s answer to traditional operating systems, a simple Linux shell running a version of the Chrome browser as the main interface element. Everything a computing device running Chrome OS would need exists in the cloud. The ultimate lightweight (and inexpensive) OS. So why would Google abandon it? Apps. For better or worse people love apps and Android has an extensive library of them already. And why would that be so important? To mount a frontal assault on the iTunes App Store.
The second significant barb is Google’s endorsement of Flash. As the old saying goes, politics can make strange bedfellows, and the current union between Google and Adobe is the strangest. Google, like Apple, has long supported a standards-based web experience that disposes with third party plug-ins. Third party plug-ins like Adobe Flash. So why, as it says in the article, would Google make a point of saying their tablet would support Flash? Well as another attack on a perceived (but not necessarily real) shortcoming of the iPad.
Ultimately, you have to wonder how far Google will get by simply creating a device that “is” what the iPad isn’t. The iPad is an innovative and differentiated device not because it was created by committee in a boardroom from a wish list of their competitor’s shortcomings. As I’ve said in a couple of articles already, the real strength of the iPad is the experience. Apple didn’t chase the desires of users and tech journalists, it didn’t try to be everything to everyone. Instead, Apple made the iPad what they wanted it to be with the experience and strengths and weaknesses of what it is. If Google is serious about making a product that will sell even a tenth as well as the iPad, they would do well to focus not on the criticisms of competitors. Google should take a cue from Apple and make the device they want to make and let the market decide which is better.
What do you think? Is the Google tablet a cynical attempt to create a device that isn’t an iPad to make a few quick bucks? Does Google just want to profit from criticism instead of making a truly innovative device? Should Apple be worried about a successful Google tablet? Leave us your thoughts in the comment section.