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Does Google Hate Tablets?

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Have you seen the new Android Market? Thanks to a slick design, it's now simpler to buy books and rent movies … but only on your smartphone. Way to alienate your tablet users, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) . This, Fool, is why Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPad has 100 times more native apps than Android peers from Samsung and Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI  ) .

No tip of the tab
I'm beginning to wonder whether Android boss Andy Rubin secretly hates the tablet format. Or maybe he's a spy for Apple. (OK, not really.) Whatever his problem is, Rubin's team is either unwilling or unable to create parity between smartphones and tablets.

Let's assume it’s the latter. Google already is split between growing the love for Chrome OS and the Chromebook at the same time as it shepherds Android and a new social-media service, Google+. It's likely that Rubin's team is stretched as thin as most third-party developers.

And when I say "stretched," I mean Stretch Armstrong-style stretched. Between Apple's iOS and the varying flavors of Android, there's way too much work for developers to do. Mix in Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Mango mobile OS, Palm's WebOS, and Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) BlackBerry, and I can understand why Hulu Plus and Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) have yet to support Honeycomb. They're too busy writing code for smartphones.

But Rubin and his team also haven't given coders nearly enough incentive to develop apps for tablets. Remember three years ago when Google sponsored a developer contest? By fall 2009, they were writing more than 2,000 new Android apps a month, and today the Android Market hosts more than 200,000 apps. Why didn't anyone think to create a similar contest for tablet apps? Where's the love for Honeycomb?

3 things to do now, Google
The OS needs a shot in the arm -- quick -- before Google kills it, as it has so many other underperforming services. Here are three ideas to get the conversation started:

  1. Start a new developer contest. Yes, I'm saying it again. Nothing motivates developers like cash; that's why Apple likes to talk about the $2 billion paid out to coders who've written iOS apps. The numbers don't have to be obscenely large -- earlier contests paid out $250,000 as a top prize -- but there's something psychologically alluring about $1 million. A contest with a first prize that big would be small potatoes for Google yet still generate big headlines and a flood of Honeycomb development.
  2. Create the Nexus One tablet. I've said this before as well. Every great hardware platform has a reference design. Android smartphones had the Nexus One. Why shouldn't Android tablets get the same courtesy? At the very least, a reference design would give Google a chance to get creative and at the same time give developers a glimpse of what Rubin's team views as an ideal user experience.
  3. Commit to the features that matter. I'll understand if this sounds simplistic, but is it really so difficult to prioritize software development so that the basics are covered? There really isn't much point to building a tab with a high-powered NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA  ) processor if there's no streaming video to render. Send a team to its Los Gatos headquarters if you have to, Google, but get Netflix working on Honeycomb. Now.

I hate to be so tough on Google so soon after the company reported great results. But business is business, and when it comes to its Android tab efforts, the Big G is acting small. Do you agree? Disagree? Share your opinions, analysis, and ideas using the comments box below.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Netflix, Apple, Google, NVIDIA, and Microsoft, creating a bull call spread position in Apple, buying puts in Netflix, writing puts in NVIDIA, and creating a diagonal call position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (8)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2011, at 9:04 PM, melegross wrote:

    The reason there are so few Honeycomb apps is because there have been so few Honeycomb tablets sold. We can forget all of the marketing propaganda about so many tablets shipped, and the numbers we're reading about the rest of the year which makes it look as though they will be getting a 40% marketshare.

    We have tolook at real numbers, and there aren't any. There aren't any, because the manufacturers have sold so few that it's embarrassing. The real marketshare for the iPad is closer to 90% than the 68% we've read about recently.

    Until people actually start buying these tablets in the millions per month, which isn't looking likely right now, then no matter how many contests Google pays for, developers won't be interested.

  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2011, at 10:12 PM, jhf678 wrote:

    Nvidia Tegra will be in the new Amazon tablet this fall, which is said to be better than iPad.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2011, at 1:32 AM, DRS73 wrote:

    The first android tablets did not work very well - I was selling them but got fed up of customer returns.

    However, I have seen that some android tablets selling on amazon are starting to get good reviews.

    Maybe a gradual upturn in the sales of these cheap android tablets will be a sound, long term future for android.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2011, at 9:14 AM, techy46 wrote:

    Why develop apps for Anroid tablets, small sales, when Android smart phones are selling so well. Who cares about rushing to tablets? If you're going to do a tablet app focus on iTab.

  • Report this Comment On July 17, 2011, at 2:36 PM, kariku wrote:

    The reason is because it's a pain in the a$$ to develop for Android.

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