First, my job is to talk about what’s going on in the world right now, not to foretell the future. It’s weird how often tech journalists are looked to for their soothsaying powers (it’s also weird how often they’ll play along). We don’t ask, say, business reporters for their stock picks, but somehow anyone who reviews a gadget is deemed capable of prophesying the fate of massive companies and their products.
Second, guessing at the future of technology is a mug’s game. You will almost certainly be wrong, and therefore you are almost certainly making an ass out of future you. I like future me. I like his hovercraft pants and his metallic beard, and I refuse to embarrass him from this meager past.
That said, I will now break my rule and make a technology prediction. Even worse, I will make a tech prediction that was made by someone else, two days ago.
There will eventually be more Android tablets in use than iPads.
This of course was stated as fact, not prophecy, by a research firm called Informa. Informa should change their name to Obviousa, because theirs is the safest prediction I’ve heard in a while.
The phenomenal growth of Android smartphones illustrates the new normal when it comes to mobile devices: there’s Apple and there’s everything else, and everything else will run Android. Hardware companies have finally got the message that they are hardware companies—consumers don’t want their crappy, proprietary, incompatible software. Android is free, open and good, and as more and more of the unApple world adopts it, it will soon boast more apps than Apple.
But I bet you’d still take an iPad. Fair enough, but consider this: iPads remain expensive toys for grownups in countries like Canada. Teens and kids here would sooner spend that cash on an Xbox, and folks from poorer nations just want stuff that works. Any Android slab—even a lousy one—works. As long as it’s a glowing touchable rectangle running Android, you’ve got the basic functionality of an iPad. Reviewers like to pick at the details—maybe it’s a bit heavier, not as bright, less responsive, whatever. To 91% of the world’s population it’s 91% of the way there, and if it sells for 19% of the price, then that will be the determining factor.
In a sense, Apple has screwed itself by making the iPad so elegant and simple. How can they continue to differentiate it? Change the colour, make it thinner, slap a camera on each side—and then what? Additions will only subtract.
The tablet is a great invention, but it will ultimately be rendered generic. The race is now on price, and Android will win it.
So it is written, so it shall be.