Rubin: Google To Push Tablets This Year

Android creator Andy Rubin said Google will redouble its focus on tablets, possibly meaning a Nexus tablet is on the way

Evidence of a Google-styled tablet has yet to be confirmed from Google or anyone else, but it now seems likely the search giant is indeed launching a tablet in the mold of the “pure Google experience” Nexus smartphones sometime this year.

Outside Samsung’s Galaxy Tab lineup, Android tablets have yet to catch on. Android creator Andy Rubin, who serves as senior vice president of mobile and digital content for Google, acknowledged at Mobile World Congress (MWC) that while there are more than 300 million smartphones running the open-source operating system, only 12 million tablets run Android to date.

Tablet ambition

According to The Verge, Rubin said at a press roundtable the 12 million number is “not insignificant, but less than I’d expect it to be if you really want to win”.

Winning might be the overly ambitious goal here when Google should simply try to compete first. Apple has sold some 55 million iPads to date and is gearing up to unveil the iPad 3 next month.

The problem, said Rubin according to The New York Times, is that consumers don’t view Android as a viable slate option when they “walk into a Best Buy and see a bunch of Android tablets on display”.

A common cause for failing devices is the cookie-cutter dilemma: There are dozens of tablets running some flavor of Android Honeycomb, but these devices have few distinguishing features. Compounding the issue is that there are very few Android applications tailored for tablets in Google’s Android Market, or any other application store.

Rubin also said that Google would “double down” on Android tablets in 2012. What does that mean exactly? Rubin declined to say, but it’s likely an allusion to the long-rumoured Nexus tablet, which Google Chairman Eric Schmidt hinted at in December when he said Google was designing a tablet of “the highest quality”.

Google and hardware partners, such as HTC and Samsung, have designed Nexus smartphones.

Nexus experience

The Nexus models include only software Google wants on them, meaning they eschew carrier bloatware. They’re also the first handsets to get new versions of the Android operating system. Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, for example, was the first Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) smartphone when it launched in December.

The most logical Nexus tablet partner choice would be Samsung, which Rubin acknowledged as enjoying a modicum of success.

It’s also possible, yet unlikely, Motorola Mobility is a Nexus tablet partner contender. Google is acquiring the OEM, so it would look especially suspect if Google started tapping it now of all times to be a Nexus partner.

Adding spice to the speculation are recent comments from DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim, who told CNET that the Google-branded tablet would have a 7-inch display with a 1,280 by 800 resolution. The device could go into production this April, with manufacturers pumping out 1.5 million to 2 million units.

How well do you know your tablets? Take our quiz.