Dec. 29, 2010 at 2:25 PM ET
When it comes to its new tablet OS, Android 3.0, Google appears to be playing favorites: Smart phone companies including Motorola, HTC and Samsung are getting the R&D assistance they need to launch their tablets soon, while the big PC brands are getting left in the cold, says a report by the Taiwanese tech biz gossip rag DigiTimes. What this means for you is that PC brands like Dell and Acer may lose luster as more and more of your "personal computing" is done on devices coming from the smart phone industry.
What's on the table is Google's ability to give "priority support" to companies developing larger, more powerful tablets that can compete with Apple's iPad. Sources from unnamed notebook "vendors" (that is, the big familiarly named companies who design and sell millions of computers per year) have "expressed concerns" with the favoritism, says DigiTimes, suggesting that they are "now under significant pressure."
Sweating bullets, more like it. If notebook companies can't get good tablets to market quick enough, they'll continue to lose ground that, according to multiple reports, they've already begun ceding.
The headaches must be nonstop in the largest PC businesses, because their historic software partner Microsoft has yet to come up with a suitable answer to iPad and Android for touch tablets. Microsoft is expected to show off a new version of Windows at next week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a version built to run with phone- and tablet-friendly ARM chips. That said, it's apparently still Windows, an older platform designed around the mouse-and-keyboard interface, which has yet to prove its suitability in the touchscreen world. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
HP is perhaps the only vendor not feeling Google's cold shoulder. The powerhouse PC maker bought Palm this past April, and has said it will show off its own tablets, based on the Palm WebOS platform, in 2011.
Despite this drama, the Android 3.0 timeframe is still fairly tight, according to the DigiTimes report. Smart phone brands will launch their Android 3.0 tablets as early as the middle of February, while the notebook brands will be stalled only until the end of March. But to the anxiety of internal competition is a very large gorilla indeed: Apple's much-rumored iPad 2, expected by April, if not sooner.