Google To Make Media Tablet, Says Eric Schmidt

Mark Long,

Google intends to make a media tablet "of the highest quality" within the next six months to compete with Apple's iPad, said Google Chairman Eric Schmidt in an interview with an Italian newspaper.

As the "the Michelangelo of our era," Schmidt said, Steve Jobs understood the revolutionary potential of the tablet and created an amazing product like the iPad. However, it is the nature of capitalism for companies to compete, Schmidt said.

"In the next six months we plan to market a tablet of the highest quality," Schmidt told Corriere della Sera, a daily newspaper in Milan.

Schmidt also said that Google was up to the task of competing with Apple's new Siri voice-assistant software for the iPhone.

"We have had the best voice translation software for a long time already, [and] we can always use it to do things similar to Siri," said Schmidt, according to the newspaper. "Of course, I am not speaking about future products not yet announced. However, we have the technology -- we need not develop it."

Aiding Software Developers

Any time the quality of devices helps to improve an expansion in the user base, it is a boon for developers, noted Al Hilwa, director of applications software development at IDC.

"The tussle between the platforms is an overall plus for developers," Hilwa said. "The platform owners are pressured competitively to take aggressive control of the ecosystem and improve it through better tools, app stores and developer outreach and evangelism."

Schmidt's remarks suggest that Google intends to roll out the media tablet equivalent of the original Nexus-branded Android smartphone for developers. If correct, the goal would be to encourage app developers to create a wider range of software products for tablets running Android 4.0 from vendors such as Samsung, HTC and Motorola.

Though the new Kindle Fire runs Android beneath its customer interface, Amazon only provides its tablet users with limited access to Android Market. Still, the low cost of Amazon's red-hot device -- which sells for less than it costs to build -- has set a new bar for pricing that other Android tablet makers can't match.

Apple's Counter Strategy

Amazon's robust tablet sales this holiday season makes it even more important for Android tablet rivals such as Samsung, Motorola and HTC to be able to offer a wider array of apps specifically tailored for Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich. IHS predicts that Amazon will capture second place in the global smartphone market in the current quarter by selling 3.9 million Kindle Fire units.

"Most other Android tablet makers must earn a profit based on hardware sales alone," said Rhoda Alexander, senior manager, tablet and monitor research for IHS. "In contrast, Amazon plans to use the Kindle Fire to drive sales of physical goods that comprise the majority of the company's business."

On the other hand, the extent to which Amazon will be able to outpace growth in the media tablet market next year will depend in part on whatever counter-strategy that Apple elects to adopt. For example, if the rumored iPad 3 is ready to roll in the first quarter of 2012, Apple may decide to lower the price of its older iPad and iPad 2 models -- just as it did on the smartphone front when it launched the iPhone 4S last October.

"I find it interesting that Google has kept its focus on Apple," Hilwa said. "They likely fear a lower-end Apple device that might push against Android harder."