When it comes to even the best Android tablets, oddly enough Google continues to insist that Android 2.2 (“Froyo”) does not support the tablet “form factor”. While the Android mobile operating system is open-source can can be used freely by any device manufacturer to make whatever they want, including tablet pcs, the catch to the whole “open-source” issue with Google and Android is the licensing of Google’s proprietary “Android Market” app.
This app allows you to connect your Android tablet or phone to Google’s branded app marketplace where you can directly download thousands of free and cheap games and apps to your device. Without it, users can still download APK files from other sources on the internet and install these apps onto any Android device, but many services and apps – particularly those created by Google and their partners in the Open Handset Alliance – are available exclusively through Google’s online Android market.
Google requires that any devices that want to pre-install the Android Marketplace app onto their phones or tablets may do so as long as they meet the requirements set out in their CDD documentation – essentially a compliance document and diagnostic software. The problem for Android tablets, is that the current version CDD documentation limits screen size to just 5.8″ and requires all of the functionality of a full-fledged smartphone such as mobile network connectivity, GPS, and rear-facing camera; many features which not necessarily add up to the best Android tablet in terms of utility and value.
But Doesn’t the Samsung Galaxy Tab have a 7″ Screen AND the Android Marketplace App?
Yes, seems that for Google’s partners (Samsung, Motorola, and so on) there are certain “exemptions” that can be made to allow them to get an early move on this market, and while Samsung claims to have gone through tremendous efforts to make Froyo work on the tablet form factor, it seems that many of the best Android tablets for sale are coming from China and have fully operational features that are able to play and access a wide range of apps freely available on the web.
Interestingly, Google acts like these tablets don’t even exist and seems oblivious to the off-market opportunities they are creating for possible competitors to Google’s market. Particularly since they have at least fronted like they were embracing open-source with Android, many users in the online community will feel quite justified in illegally sharing APK files on torrent sites and other file sharing repositories. Just a quick search of Google will yield millions of links to “free APK downloads” where you can easily download files onto an SD card and then launch from your phone or tablet.
Google’s stance may be that Android doesn’t fit the tablet form factor, and certainly there is some confusion as to whether Google will support Chrome or Android for future tablet development, but the market is demanding Android tablets now and with Apple’s iPad racing ahead to grab marketshare in this product category, it seems that Google would be wise to embrace China’s innovative OEM manufacturing community and help them become part of the pressure on Apple’s market dominance rather than dismissing them entirely.