Watch out Apple, Android 3.0 tablets may surpass the iPad

The iPad may have the market to itself for now, but by early next year, it could be under assault in the same way that Android phones have overtaken the iPhone. Google, Verizon, and Motorola are teaming up on an Android 3.0 tablet, and other hardware makers are working on them as well. It's the first sign that Android tablets may eventually outsell iPads.

Digitimes reports that Motorola, Verizon, and Google are working on a deal to create an Android tablet with a 10.1-inch screen, and based on the Tegra 2 platform from Nvidia. The panel will be thinner than the iPad's, and not as bright. Digitimes Research senior analyst Mingchi Kuo was the source of the story, and he said that he said the device will be put into mass production by the end of 2010. He expects the device to sell two million units in 2011.

Acer's previously announced Android tablet has apparently been delayed, and is now expected to ship in 2011 rather than late 2010, Digitimes also reports. It's being delayed so that it will ship with Android 3.0 rather than 2.2.

Google appears to be following its "let a thousand flowers bloom" approach to Android tablets in the same way it's done it for Android smartphones. That approach has certainly paid off for Google, as Android smartphone sales have surpassed sales of the iPhone.

At first glance, one would think there is no way for Android tablets to eventually outsell iPads. After all, the iPad has sold millions of copies with no sign of demand slackening. And tablets based on Android 3.0 aren't even out yet.

Look back a year, though. Android phones were barely a blip on anyone's radar. In the second quarter of 2009, 755,900 of them were sold, according to Gartner. The firm said that in the second quarter of this year, there were 10.6 million of them sold, overtaking the iPhone.

Don't be surprised if the same thing happens with Android tablets. Expect there to be many Android 3.0 tablets for sale, at many different price points, with many different types of features, aimed at many different audiences. By way of contrast, there will be essentially a single iPad model, with some minor variations. I'm guessing that variety and niche marketing will trump Apple's juggernaut.

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