Kmart isn't exactly a name synonymous with anything geeky. Their game selection is usually iffy, their DVDs dqually so. Electronics? Meh. Maybe if you need new batteries for your Wiimote, that's about it.
But this week, the eternal-butt-of-jokes discount store found itself at the epicenter of a geekquake when it advertised an Android tablet for $150 - about a third of the asking price for an iPad. Instantly, technophiles descended on the stores, advertising circulars in hand, looking for the devices - only to find out they weren't there. Stores apologized and issued rainchecks, and as of this writing, I've yet to come across a blog post from anybody who's gotten their hands on one (save for a Cnet post speculating that the Augen Gentouch will probably be a piece of junk).
All this has revealed two things about the tablet market, though - Android is here to stay, and he-or-she who will come up with an inexpensive, reliable Android tablet will rule the world - or at least the budget-conscious segment of the geekosphere.
Suddenly, designers of Android apps will find themselves facing the same thing their iPad counterparts are - they not only have to think big, they have to think slate-shaped. The above analysis piece from Cnet points out that right now, there are very few Android apps available that are not specifically designed with the controls of a smartphone like the Droid in mind.
People are going to want the same apps for their Googleblet that they have for their smartphone - especially now that Android has been around for awhile and users have gotten to know it a little. If you're doing a phone app, whether it's a game or an E-reader, it might be a good idea to develop it in both versions - phone and tablet.
A good time to start developing these tablet apps would be now, before the Android feeding frenzy really starts. And it's coming - especially if companies like Asus manage to deliver a solid product at a price that, while not quite as low as the Gentouch, still comes out way below the iPad. Your family on a budget, college student, starving artist etc. may not be able to afford an Apple slate, but a $200 Android device from that company that makes their much-relied-upon netbook? They just may spring for that.
Some people have predicted that the iPad vs. Android wars will end up being the sequel to Mac vs. PC - a beautifully made, hardware-and-software-integrated "boutique" device vs. a less expensive OS that's not as elegant, but runs on devices from a variety of companies and at least gets the job done. If that's the case, software designers would do well to remember what happened with Windows software - it was needed everywhere, for everything.
We've had the first sign that Android has arrived, and is about to explode. And who would have thought that the dawn of a new era of tech cool would come via the most uncool of stores?
- Bonnie Walling