But the big deal in Android in 2011 is the tablet-oriented Honeycomb 3.0 version due this spring; it will be used on every one of the dozens of tablets announced this week. The first Android tablets, such as Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Dell's Streak, have been awkward devices largely because they use a mobile OS not designed for their form factor. As such, they aren't plausible iPad competitors. Honeycomb may change that, assuming Google has done a good job, in which case, summer 2011 will show a strong battle between iPad and Android tablets. I suspect we'll see by year's end the sales of Android tablets equaling those of the iPad.
Will Android tablet sales surpass iPad sales? I'm not so sure. The main difference between Android tablets and iPads is Flash, which I don't think is that important. The main iPad feature missing from Android tablets is iTunes integration, and iTunes is emerging as a powerful platform in its own right as your media library, your app library, and your new media delivery environment (thanks to the AirPlay support in iOS 4.2 and iTunes 10.1). Believe me: Once you start "beaming" video and and music from your iOS devices to your TV or between your iTunes-equipped computer, you realize that Apple's integrated media strategy is really compelling and useful -- and there's nothing like it outside the of the Apple universe.
Android devices may succeed as stand-alone units, but for now only the iPad works great both as a stand-alone device and as part of something bigger. Once users get a taste of AirPlay and flexible home media systems, they'll be drawn more strongly to Apple.
It's all about iOS and Android
It's clear that in 2011 there will be only two games in town: Apple's iOS and Google's Android.
Microsoft's empty announcements at CES show the company has nothing substantive going on in mobile. It continues to pretend as if its crippled Windows Phone 7 has a chance of gaining serious adoption, and its newest path forward for Windows tablets -- now to be enabled via the forthcoming Windows 8 support of the mobile ARM processor -- is a pipe dream. The time to be a serious player in mobile is now, not two years down the line. Microsoft is AWOL when it comes to actual, innovative mobile technologies.
RIM and Hewlett-Packard are also in the game, but it's not clear either has a chance of being more than a niche product. The BlackBerry continues to lose market share, and RIM's message-oriented strategy rings hollower and hollower as the mobile market evolves. Yes, the BlackBerry Torch made progress in escaping the messaging-only straitjacket, but most of RIM's customers have already moved on.
HP bought Palm and its WebOS last spring, then went silent just as Android's surge began. Most customers have forgotten about Palm and WebOS, so no matter what HP plans to announce in February for its new smartphones and tablets, I doubt anyone will care. HP would need to push the envelope significantly beyond iOS and Android, and neither it nor Palm has shown any ability to do so in the last decade -- tracking the market, not leading it. HP may find some new, niche uses for WebOS in printers and other devices, but it's hard to imagine it will stand out in smartphones and tablets.
This article, "The key mobile trends emerging from CES 2011," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com.