July 25, 2011 at 7:10 PM ET
The current buzz is that iPad sales may be 24 times as great as sales of Android tablets. Let's not pretend to be surprised.
The info is based on number crunching by John Gruber, and further crunching by TheNextWeb. Though there's a little dispute as to the exact values, the gist is that only a (low) single-digit percentage of tablets out there did not come adorned with Apple's iconic logo.
Poor sales performance acknowledged, the question really is whether or not Android tablets have the same fighting chance that Android phones had of coming back and putting the spank on Apple. Things can change, but at this point, they do not.
What don't Android tablets have?
Sheltered sales channels: You can say all you want about your awesome Motorola Droid or Evo 4G, but you know darn well one of the reasons you bought it was because there was no iPhone to check out. Android phones at non-iPhone carriers gained a lot of momentum, and proved they were, for most phone purposes, the iPhone's equal. (In some circumstances, its better.) Android tablets have no opportunity to prove their worth to people who can't choose Apple. (And let's not forget, Android's biggest advocates in the U.S. cellphone market now sell iPads.)
A price advantage: Okay, maybe you chose Android over iPhone. Chances are, one reason was price, or let's call it bang for buck — similar features at equal or less price. There isn't going to be an Android tablet that's cheaper than the iPad for some time, given the state of production resources in China, and the fact that Apple paid ahead for a lot of production capacity. Add to that the fact that according to a recent survey by Retrevo.com, customers start getting really interested in Android over iPad when the price of the Android tab dips below $300, and you got gloom ahead for the anti-iPads.
A clear and level playing field: Everybody needs a phone, and at the time of Android's surge to dominance, Palm had flopped and RIM had outworn its welcome at Verizon and other carriers. There was Apple, there had to be an alternative, especially due to the iPhone's AT&T exclusivity in the U.S. The tablet field isn't like this. Apple's tablet is both uniquely new and specifically designed to undermine the PC, particularly in the netbook market. As such, any company trying to compete with the iPad has to do combat with every Windows PC selling for $499 or less, too. Last I checked, that was a lot of 'em. People with a fistful of hundreds may not even know there's a third choice beyond iPad and netbook.
(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal, though that obviously doesn't impact our coverage.)
Developers, developers, developers: The biggest mystery is why, five months after Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets started to hit stores, developers seem to have no interest in them. Maybe it's chicken and egg, that devs are waiting for increased consumer interest, but you'd think given the sheer volume of Android phone apps out there, there'd be some trickle-up action. But no, the tablet side of the App Market is dead.
A host of worthy competitors: There is exactly one Android tablet out there that I would recommend for its hardware, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. But when a choice is binary, other factors weigh in, such as app availability, peripheral and accessory line-up, compatibility with other devices. For Android to keep attention away from this fundamental decision — which Apple wins, for now — there needs to be more of a gang-up of Android tabs from Samsung, Motorola, HTC, LG and others that are all awesome.
Pile all this up, and you can't help but nod in agreement when you see figures, speculative or otherwise, showing how much the iPad is foot-stomping Android tabs. As I said, things can change, and everything will change, the minute Amazon announces its Android-powered Kindle tablet. Just you wait.
More on the tablet wars from Wilson on msnbc.com: