2011 has really started to shape up as the official year of the 'other' tablets. Last year (2010) we saw a limited release of Android tablets however they were running standard smartphone Android OS versions that were in turn tweaked for the tablet interface (ie Galaxy Tab running on Froyo 2.3 with Samsung's Touchwiz launcher/overlay, Nook tablet running 2.2/2.3 and a tablet skin). However this year we saw the first of the real, Honeycomb (Android 3.x OS for Tablets) tablets and all the rest of the non Apple tablets. Today, I plan to outline a few guidelines that I think Android tablet makers need to address before they even attempt to launch a tablet.
Lesson Number 1: DON'T RUSH YOUR TABLET TO MARKET
So far, that seems to be the biggest mistake each maker that's launched a non iPad tablet has done wrong this year. Releasing an unfinished product to the general public and then fixing the problems/missing functionality/features after the fact. You CAN'T do this when your competing against a product like the iPad. The iPad is a very fit and finished product at this point; you can't expect to compete if your tablet needs to get 4G radio firmware added after you release by shipping it back (Xoom on Verizon) or is missing key PIM feature (Playbook) or is just not finished.
Lesson 2: Don't try to beat Apple to release; release the week after an Apple release
Why wait? Because if your product is finished and overall well done, you can sell to those who can't get an iPad. If Motorola was smart, they would have waited to find out Apple's general release date and then targeted their launch of the Xoom about a week after. Let's face it, you can't compete w/an Apple launch; your product just gets lost in the press for the Apple product. Think about it; iPad 2 shortages were rampant and still are however if the Xoom was actually at the point it is right now; it could be a feasible alternative to the iPad 2 however the bad press it received due to it not being a finished product swayed most users away from it as an alternative for the iPad 2.
Also, Apple marketing is some of the best brand marketing out there; you can't beat them at their own game. You can try to beat them by having your device in stock when theirs isn't.
Lesson 3: Don't follow the leader all the time
Don't abandon the 7" tablet form factor. There is a ton of potential in the form factor and all we need is some great hardware to show it off. The Galaxy Tab's greatest strength to me was the fact that it was very portable and I was more likely to bring it out on the town with me at night versus my 10" iPad / iPad 2. The future of Android tablets do show a few other 7" tablets such as the HTC Flyer on the roadmap and the Lenovo Pad. Both devices are aiming at the Corporate side of tech and adding inking abilities. I think the 7" form factor could really gain a spot in the corporate tech landscape as notepad replacements given the inking is done well and notes can be synced to the cloud or corporate clouds.
So there you have it. My three lessons on what not to do when launching a tablet. Again, the main point being you can't release an unfinished product when your biggest competitor has one of the most finished and easy to use devices on the market.
Till next week, keep it geeky!