Motorola's Android tablet coming next year?

Motorola exec says the company "hopes" to deliver a tablet in 2011. Will the timing be right?

The burgeoning tablet market is about to get even more crowded, as Motorola on Thursday confirmed that it, too, plans to offer a tablet computer in the coming months. Details about the Android-based device are scarce, however, and Motorola's Co-Chief Executive Sanjay Jha would only say that the company hopes to be able to release the tablet "early next year."

The Motorola tablet would join an increasing number of devices that are hoping to rival Apple's popular iPad. Dell launched its Android-based Streak smartphone/tablet earlier this summer, and Samsung plans to launch the Galaxy Tab, another Android device, later on Thursday. While the iPad has a strong foothold in the market -- Apple has sold millions of the devices since its launch earlier this year -- it may be difficult for Apple to retain its dominance as the level of competition increases.

Motorola Tablet: A Brief History

Rumors of a Motorola tablet have been around for almost a year now. Last December, Boy Genius Report posted pictures of a rumored Android-based tablet from Motorola, and the company showed off a prototype device at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. And just this spring, Motorola's Jha confirmed that the company was interested in developing an Android-based mobile device with a 7- to 10-inch screen.

Speaking at the Deutsche Bank Technology Conference in San Francisco on Thursday, Jha reiterated that Motorola is interested in the tablet market, as long as it can deliver a worthwhile device. "I will only develop a tablet if it is sufficiently compelling," he said, according to a report from AFP.

Android Upgrade

What would make the tablet compelling, Jha said, is a more advanced version of the Android operating system. The current 2.x version of Android is optimized for smartphones, he said, and is not ready for use in tablet computers.

And based on our hands-on tests of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Jha just may be right about Android. PCWorld Contributor Harry McCracken spent some time using the Galaxy Tab at this week's IFA show in Berlin, and noted that while the Android 2.2-based device is "intriguing," it's currently limited to running mostly "blown-out smartphone applications," not apps specifically designed for use on the Galaxy Tab's 7-inch screen.

Wait and See

Perhaps Motorola's decision to wait a few months makes sense, then -- even if it does mean that the company's tablet won't be ready for the holiday shopping season. Motorola has experience in this area: The company wasn't the first to offer an Android-based smartphone to rival Apple's wildly successful iPhone. But it was one of the first to truly succeed in competing with the iPhone, when it launched the first-generation Motorola Droid in November 2009. The Droid launched just as consumers were really getting excited about Android-based phones, and sales of the device were strong from the beginning.

Android's appeal -- and market share -- has only grown since the first Droid launched last year. Motorola has since launched two more Android-based smartphones (the Droid X and the Droid 2), so the company has only become more familiar with manufacturing hardware that will run Google's mobile OS. But so, too, has Samsung, which had a good amount of success launching its Galaxy S line of Android-based smartphones this summer. Samsung's Galaxy Tab may be able to capitalize on that momentum -- freezing out the Motorola tablet when it launches sometime next year.

More Choices, Better Options

However the market for Android- and iOS-based tablets shakes out, there's one thing we know for sure: More choices for consumers is definitely a good thing. Tablet shoppers will no longer be limited to just the iPad, and a little competition should keep all of the tablet manufacturers working hard to keep consumers happy.

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Liane Cassavoy

PC World (US online)
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