Since the official announcement of the Galaxy Tab, people have been speculating if this would be the product to put the first chink of the iPad's armor. While Google wants desperately to put a stop to Apple's explosive iOS device growth, it seems that at least a few Google employees are saying that this isn't the time to do it, but it will be soon.
Hugo Barra, director of products for mobile at Google, told Tech Radar late last week:
… the way Android Market works is it's not going to be available on devices that don't allow applications to run correctly. Which devices do, and which don't will be unit specific, but Froyo is not optimised for use on tablets. If you want Android market on that platform, the apps just wouldn't run, [Froyo] is just not designed for that form factor. We want to make sure that we're going to create a application distribution mechanism for the Android market, to ensure our users have right experience.
It seems that in the upcoming Gingerbread (Android 3.0) and Honeycomb Android (unknown version number at this time, but presumably 3.1) releases, there is more of a definite eye towards making the operating system work with tablets.
Gingerbread is expected to be released some time in the next few months, so why companies are rushing out tablets now that may not be able to handle full functionality of the operating system is beyond me. If a customer gets burnt once by "an Android tablet", they aren't going to care about future versions that are optimized for the form factor as they will just see it as the same type of device that burned them before.
The problem is that even Google seems confused by what is going to happen in these pre-Gingerbread devices. Writing on the Android Developer's Blog, Google open source and compatibility program manager Dan Morrill had a completely different view of what will happen in the Marketplace as this same issue is cropping up with the Android-powered Google TV:
Fortunately, you can use our built-in tools to handle these cases and control which devices your app appears to in Android Market. Android lets you provide versions of your UI optimized for various screen configurations, and each device will pick the one that runs best. Meanwhile, Android Market will make sure your apps only appear to devices that can run them, by matching those features you list as required (via tags) only with devices that have those features.
Okay, so which is it? Will apps work in the Galaxy Tab or not?
While you have to thank Google for releasing an "open" operating system, I still feel the overall situation is a mess. You have companies using versions of the OS that are several generations out of date or you have other companies rushing to put the latest version in devices it wasn't meant for. The onus of these situations certainly falls on the manufacturers, but you can't say that Google's hands are completely clean in this. They want to show up Apple, and they want to be able to say they have a ton of devices running Android, but this rush to get as many products as possible into the marketplace is even causing confusion inside the company, and that is never a good thing.
Enjoy the glory while you can Google, but I think the "openess" of Android may be about to leave a bad taste in some people's mouths.
What say you? Do you think Google should crack down at least somewhat on the way companies are using Android to make sure you get the best possible user experience?