Google Fortifies its Mobile Ecosystem, Prepares for Tablet Wars
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Author: Jim Lundy
Topic: Mobile and Tablets
Issue: How will enterprises leverage mobile ecosystems to gain a competitive advantage?
Summary: At Google I/O June 26th, Google demonstrated Android 4.1 with updates to content, apps and voice navigation.
Event: At Google I/O in San Francisco on June 27-28, 2012, Google introduced major updates to Android as well as a new 7” tablet that will be manufactured by Asus.
Analysis: By enhancing its Android mobile ecosystem, Google is preparing for the coming tablet wars that will include Apple and Microsoft. With Android 4.1 (“Jelly Bean”) nearing shipment, Google made improvements in nearly every element of its ecosystem, and it, along with its new apps and content, is poised to challenge Apple’s popular iOS ecosystem in tablets.
Google made some impressive moves on the content front, with a better experience for books and magazines and a bigger selection of movies and TV shows. Google’s moves to enhance the content available on Google Play should entice more hardware partners to develop tablets.
On voice navigation, Google made major enhancements to Voice Search, which is also integrated with its contextual assistant, Google Now (see Note 1). Google’s move is an endorsement of voice interfaces. Voice assistants on tablets and smartphones will continue to help users interact more with their computers without the need for a keyboard.
Planning Assumption: By 2018, people will have natural voice conversations with computers.
Google Android and Carrier Upgrades
One of Google’s challenges is getting its carrier partners to offer Android updates on a regular basis. This will be important to tablet users who keep their devices longer than 24 months. Recent trends show HTC has been pushing out Android 4.0 and others are following suit.
Aragon Research has been running Android 4.0 on a tablet since last December, and it has proved to be reliable, particularly with regard to consistent wireless connectivity. Android 4.1 looks like a significant upgrade to version 4.0.
Google Tablet – Smaller, Cheaper
Google’s strategy to launch a 7-inch tablet initially is a smart move. With a low list price of $199, Google can attract more price-conscious consumers. We think business applications need a larger footprint for maximum productivity.
The patent wars are still alive, and at the time of this writing, Google was still working on a patch to get around an injunction involving Apple’s Universal Search patent that would block sales of Nexus devices. We expect that Google will eventually get the ban lifted.
The Tablet Wars Coming in 2013
Aragon Research expects many Android tablet models to flood the market in the next twelve months. Apple too is expected to introduce a smaller iPad in the fall. That said, we view the iPhone as a small tablet.
Of course Microsoft can’t be counted out either; they will launch their Surface tablet later in 2012. Putting aside their device, Microsoft still faces significant challenges in building out their mobile ecosystem. We expect the Intel version of the Surface for Windows 8 Pro to garner some interest, but price points will be an area to watch.
All of this should lead to lower prices for tablets, both for education and for business. It should not be overlooked that the iPad II can be purchased in single-unit quantities for US $399.00. As prices go lower, expect tablets to continue to ship in larger quantities.
User Experience-A Critical Success Factor
Apple has set the bar very high on the quality and consistency of the user experience. It will be a tall order for others to integrate their OS with the tablet hardware as smoothly and consistently as Apple does.
Aragon Advisory: Enterprises looking at mobile ecosystems now have a more credible option from Google, particularly for tablets.
Enterprises should look at the roadmaps from Google’s hardware partners, including the plans that allow for regular software updates direct from Google.
Bottom Line: It’s taken two years for vendors to prepare for, and now plan, to compete against Apple’s iPad. Google’s enhancements to its mobile ecosystem will make it a formidable opponent.
Note 1: Google Now
Google Now is a new capability that uses contextual awareness and Google’s knowledge graph to give users just-in-time information related to where they are or what they are doing. Google Now should be an attractive feature set for both consumers and business travellers.