By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 5:18 pm
Google and Verizon Wireless are working on an tablet together. That bit of scuttlebutt comes from a pretty well-connected source: Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam, who spilled the beans to the Wall Street Journal today. The device will run the Android OS, and that’s about all we know about it so far–but Verizon says it’ll have more details later this week. (And maybe Google will have something to say at its I|O conference next week.)
This gizmo will, of course, compete with Apple’s iPad. It joins the land rush of would-be iPad killers that don’t actually exist yet (and, in some cases, may never exist). I’d like to see something emerge as the iPad’s most formidable archival–and here are a few features that would help Google and Verizon’s tablet get there.
A decent interface. For all the snarking about the iPad being nothing more than a giant iPod Touch, Apple gave it something no previous tablet has had: a user interface that makes sense, with excellent features like the hybrid menu/window/dialog boxes known as Popovers. Google should rethink Android at least as much before it puts it on an iPad-like device.
Apps! Google’s Chrome OS netbook platform–which feels like a relic of an earlier era even though the first products based on it aren’t supposed to show up until later this year–is based around the philosophy that the only app a computer needs is the World Wide Web. The Google/Verizon tablet isn’t going to go that direction. And I’m curious to see what the companies do to answer the already-thriving iPad app economy. (Will the tablet run apps designed for Android phones?)
Googleishness! One of the best things about Android phones are their nifty integration with Google services such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Picasa, and Google Voice. I’d like to see the tablet go even further–starting with full-blown support for Google Apps, complete with editing.
Flash! Actually, until Adobe releases a FlashPlayer for mobile devices that works, it’s unclear whether it would give the Google/Verizon tablet an edge of any sort over the iPad. Given the recent coziness between Google and Adobe, I expect that Flash will land on this tablet, though–and I’d like to see it, if only as a reality check on whether the iPad’s lack of Flash is an upside or a downside.
Entertainment. On phones, Android’s entertainment infrastructure is pretty spartan–you get access to the Amazon.com music store, YouTube, audio and video players, and not much else. The tablet doesn’t need to replicate the iTunes ecosystem, but it does need more than that. Howsabout a Hulu app, for instance?
Books, magazines, and newspapers. Google is launching an e-book store this summer. Happy coincidence! I’d also like to see Amazon and Barnes & Noble build apps. As well as TIME, USA Today, the New York Times, and other media heavyweights who have released interesting iPad incarnations of their publications.
A bit less heft. At 1.5 pounds, my iPad is on the heavy side to hold like a book for extended periods–and the 3G version is a tenth of an ounce heavier. It weighs as much as it does in part because it has a sizable battery that provides truly excellent battery life. But I’m looking forward to future tablets that aren’t so heavyset.
Cheap data. AT&T has set the bar high with its $30, contract-free unlimited 3G for the iPad. Maybe Verizon can match that–but also offer some sort of price break for those of us who already pay it a monthly fee for wireless data on a phone, a laptop, or both.
A camera. Pretty obvious, right?
An attractive price. Let’s say $399, contract-free, or $199 with some sort of commitment.
Any other requests?