Hope and disappointment in Android tablets is a repetitive cycle these days. There is this huge anticipation building up that there will finally be an iPad rival. Yet you can be certain that something will be screwed up to prevent that new Android tablet from succeeding. Samsung missed the form factor and right OS; Motorola missed the sweetspot price. It's not going to get any better anytime soon: WebOS can't compete, because it does not have the necessary ecosystem and the Playbook needs to add general convenience features such as email access without the need for a Blackberry smartphone.
You can't blame consumers for not buying these tablets. Virtually all non-iPad tablets to date have established the perception that the iPad is the tablet to own and there is a good chance that Apple will repeat the iPod era with the iPad. However, there is a challenger on the horizon that has every opportunity to take on Apple: Amazon could be introducing the first compelling Android tablet. Here is why.
1. Amazon knows tablets
An Android tablet would not be Amazon's first tablet. Amazon knows how to design tablets and what consumers value in tablets as it has sold millions of Kindles. Consider an Android version of Kindle a strategy of branching out. The company's advantage is that it has experience other newbie tablet makers lack and can, as a result, avoid painful mistakes. Over the past few years, Amazon has experimented with prices, form factors, and features - and has built a considerable hardware research and development team that may not be quite as resourceful as Apple's developer army, but it may be nimble enough to come up with a compelling product that makes plain sense and is marketed effectively: Remember: The Kindle has been the only other tablet that sold out in a pre-order sale.
2. Existing upgrade path
Amazon has sold millions of Kindles. I have yet to come across a single Kindle user who isn't happy with this eBook reader. Especially those who have bought a $139 or $189 version of the Kindle may be tempted to look into a $400 or $500 version of a color Kindle that keeps their book purchases, but delivers more memory, a much better web browsing experience, as well as the breadth of Android applications: That breadth may be limited for Android tablets today, but imagine what a Kindle Tablet could do for the Android ecosystem: Kindle buyers are already used to purchasing content for their tablet and they are likely to transfer that behavior to Android apps, if they deliver a certain level of quality. Suddenly, there could be much more incentive for Android developers to develop for the tablet.
3. Trusted consumer brand
The fact that Amazon has been selling sort-of tablets for some time now has created the perception of a reliable product and the trust that Amazon can build a tablet that just works. The company may still be trying to find its way as far as app purchases are concerned, but there is no denying that there is a decent ecosystem that can support a general tablet - including video, music and app markets. Amazon even has its own cloud platform that could be challenging Apple's iCloud in a much more coherent way than Google can. Trust in the innovative capability of a company, apps and service access, as well as its ability to maintain a secure cloud product (we will have to see how the outage of Amazon's cloud service a few weeks ago plays into this) will be critical to the success of a new tablet. Amazon has all the tools and assets it needs to outshine potential rivals and tell future customers that they won't be left alone once they have purchased a tablet.
4. Unique content
Every Android tablet so far has been an iPad copycat. There is little reason to buy an expensive copycat if you can have the original for the same or less money. Plus, Apple has a very convincing app store, that tells future buyers that the iPad is the tablet they really want to buy. However, Amazon has an advantage over the iPad: Amazon has the default digital book store, which Apple still struggles to establish. An Amazon tablet will have the appeal of the Kindle and will communicate that it is most likely a much better ebook reader than the iPad is. The effect? If you enjoy reading books, you may be more likely to go with the Android Kindle than with an iPad. It would be foolish to underestimate the power of the ebook today - if Amazon plays a clever game, it could flank Apple's marketing and take a significant portion of the market.
5. The display opportunity
Let's be realistic. By today's standards, the iPad 2's display is a disgrace and most likely a compromise made by Apple to deliver higher iPad production volumes. For their purpose, Amazon's Kindle displays have always been outstanding and there is a chance for Amazon to trump Apple in display quality. Ebook reading isn't exactly a pleasure on iPads these days, but reading digital books is Amazon's home turf. There are plenty of new developments of HD screens with super-high brightness out there, which Amazon should be adopting for its Android Kindle. Not only is better display quality a requirement for a great color ebook tablet, but it is also a great marketing tool as its visual impact is easily communicated and can make a huge immediate impression with consumers in a store environment. It is very likely that many consumers will give a much better display a considerable value and they may be, as a result, willing to pay more for such a tablet.