Google still thinks tablets will replace computers


On the occasion of the release of Android 12L, dedicated to large screens, Google delivered its vision on the future of tablets. According to him, they will soon replace computers. As we said 10 years ago.

Google’s latest statement has something to smile about. Largely responsible for tablets’ inability to take off (Android hasn’t been optimized on these products for 10 years), the tech giant now believes tablets are the future of the personal computer, as Steve Jobs could already say it at Apple in 2010. Is it really possible? A few answers.

Google never helped tablets

It’s in the podcast The Android Show from March 9, 2022, hosted by Google, that Rich Mine, the company’s new head of tablets, said he thought tablets would become mainstream, thanks to their ease of use and apps. This statement may not represent the thinking of all of Google, but does show the company’s renewed interest in the matter. After so many years of laziness, however, this statement seems daring to us.

“I think at some point in the not too distant future there will be a time when more tablets are sold per year than laptops. I think once you get past that point, there’s no going back.”

Rich Mine, CTO of tablets at Google.

Since the launch of the first iPad in 2010, Google has made efforts only occasionally, in waves. There was Android Honeycomb in 2011, cut for tablets, then some optimizations right and left, without any real attempt to create an OS for tablets.

Even today, Android extends smartphone applications onto the large screens of tablets, which makes them impractical to use. Manufacturers like Samsung had to develop their own Windows-inspired interfaces themselves to make Android more versatile on the big screens of their machines.

Apple’s iPad Air (2020). // Source: Numerama

After several weeks of testing, Google released the first final version of Android 12L a few days ago, a revision of its operating system precisely designed for “large” screens. Android 12L allows apps to display information across multiple columns and streamlines multitasking. Is this enough to allow Android to become a good OS on tablets? Allow us to doubt it. iPadOS, as well optimized as it is, still doesn’t offer the flexibility of macOS.

Google must also convince the developers of third-party applications, who will undoubtedly have other things to do than take an interest in this 12-year-old market, only now discovered by Google.

Tablets still very discreet

Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen the strong comeback of laptops. Their sales have never been so high, as evidenced by the sudden resurgence of interest from brands like Samsung, returning to this sector after years of absence. Even though tablets cost less and do just as well in many aspects (word processing, video calls, etc.), they aren’t as popular. Ten years later, we continue to prefer Windows or macOS.

Another element that makes us doubt in Google’s statement, market share. In February 2022, Apple still held more than 53% of the tablet market on its own, compared to 28.4% for Samsung, number 2. In such a fragmented market, with so few manufacturers and a less rich ecosystem in the competition, can we really expect a peak in the coming months? If it really happened, one might wonder what happened for 12 years.

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