The Motorola Xoom is currently the most viable alternative to the iPad, at a similar price point and form factor. But is it doomed to fail because of the lack of Honeycomb-specific apps in the Android market?
With somewhere between 17 and 100 native apps available for Android 3.0, the offerings for next-gen tablets are somewhat pitiful compared to that of the iPad. Developers launch around 1,000 apps per day into the Apple market, whereas the Xoom only had 15 Honeycomb apps upon its launch.
Currently, all Android apps available in the Android marketplace are designed for Android 2.2 and lower, with 3.0 (Honeycomb) reserved for tablets only.
In contrast, Steve Jobs explained that the Apple App Store has 350,000 titles, 65,000 of which “take full advantage of the iPad.”
He emphasized “consumption apps, creation apps and fantastic games, and a lot of apps for business and vertical markets apps like medical. The things people are doing here are amazing,” Jobs said.
“That compares to our competitors, who are trying to launch these days with at most 100 apps. And I think we’re being a little generous here. This is a huge advantage we have,” he added.
Could the lack of apps be a deal breaker for consumers?
It’s unclear why more developers haven’t taken the short cut and resized their apps for Honeycomb-designed tablets and a larger screen.
iOS developer Justin Williams told Wired that more developers don’t redesign mobile applications for tablets because the experience is just not the same. He said, “Building a true tablet experience that takes advantage of the new platform’s possibilities.”
The other aspect that makes it difficult for developers to create apps for tablets is because Google is keeping such a tight rein on the source code for Honeycomb. Currently, the big device manufacturers like HTC, Motorola, and Samsung, have access to the code whereas everyday developers do not.
“Apple was wise to have the tools out there months in advance of launch,” Williams said, “as compared to Google who made them available only a short time before.”
Perhaps Google will release the code once it establishes more hardware in the market.
“Google needs more hardware,” says Williams, “and they need to get developers excited about building tablet experiences, not just larger screened phone apps.”