Google may not have reached Apple's or Amazon's level of marketplace success, but it's working to get closer. The company has taken steps toward improving its mobile ecosystem over the past months, integrating its marketplaces for purchasing movies, books, music and mobile apps, and then rebranding it all as "Google Play". Still, fighting the perception that the Android tablet ecosystem is lackluster may be Google's greatest challenge in establishing itself as a major tablet player in the months ahead.
"Google has spent more than a decade training consumers to associate its brand with 'free,' and now they're trying to retrain consumers to transact with them," Epps says. "That's a hard sell. Part of making Android tablets successful is convincing consumers that Google has a marketplace where they want to do business."
Low-end tablet competition
One way or another, the lower end of the tablet market seems to be an area where Google thinks it can thrive. In the company's quarterly investors' conference call this month, CEO Larry Page acknowledged the success of "lower-priced tablets" using "not-the-full-Google-version of Android" and touched on the company's plan to pursue that segment of the market further.
"We definitely believe that there's going to be a lot of success at the lower end of the market ... with lower-priced products that will be very significant. It's definitely an area we think is quite important and that we're quite focused on," Page said.
Frequent Google partner Samsung already seems to be on the same page. The company just launched a new 7-inch version of its Galaxy Tab tablet that bears an eye-catching $250 price tag with hardware that exceeds the typical budget-tablet model. With that device and the even more attention-grabbing products on the horizon, we could soon see a change in the very notion of what a "low-end tablet" means.
For makers of existing budget tablets, that may mean being forced to drop even lower in price in order to stay relevant. The logic is simple: If you can buy a quad-core tablet with an impressive display and full Google services for $150 to $200, why would you pay the same cash for a second-rate alternative?
"Wherever the ceiling is set for these new tablets, the budget manufacturers will aim for a yet lower-cost version of that," IHS iSuppli's Rhoda Alexander predicts. "They're playing in a different ballpark and will continue to fill a niche within the market."
And let's not forget: Android manufacturers may not be the only players looking to cash in on lower-priced tablets. The always-present rumors of a 7- to 8-inch Apple iPad are picking up steam, with many predicting the advent of a $300 "iPad Mini" before the end of the year.
One thing's for sure: As more companies move into lower-priced territory and duke it out for market share, it's the customers who will reap the rewards. After all, in a world where the same dollar seems to buy less with each passing year, getting a better tablet for a lower price is something anyone can appreciate.
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