Is Google making an about-turn on Android tablets?

Apple has the tablet market well under control as a result of almost ten years of innovation and support in this space. Google tried to develop their own tablets in the early 2010s but quickly changed their focus after they did not see the immediate success that they had hoped for.

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Fast-forward to 2022, and it seems like Google might be having a rethink regarding developing tablets and are making plans for a second entry in this space. The company has already convinced several OEMs, including Nokia, to start building tablets that will run the Android OS as well as developing Android 12L, a mid-cycle update of Android dedicated to tablet and foldable functionality.

The latest hint that the tech giant is planning a re-entry is a new job listing, as spotted by The Verge, for a “Senior Engineering Manager, Android Tablet Experience”, that has the following job description: “We believe that the future of computing is shifting towards more powerful and capable tablets. We are working to deliver the next chapter of computing and input by launching seamless support across our platforms and hero experiences that unlock new and better ways of being productive and creative.”

One of the responsibilities of the job description is “develop roadmaps and run the execution of our ink first hero apps strategy.” Presumably “ink first” means Google is pushing for more focus on pen input, which normally works well on large screen devices. Pen input has long been championed by Samsung, but Android and the Android Google apps have never really made many affordances for styluses.

Rich Miner, one of Android’s original founders, has also been brought back to the company as “CTO Android Tablets”, having left it in 2010. This first deduction is that there is now a tablet division at Google, which previously did not exist. Miner’s role according to The Verge report is “leading software development for Android for large screens” in the “Platforms and Ecosystems team”

As recent as 2019, Google has been clear that its hardware team was done working on tablets and would instead focus on laptops. However, the Android and Chrome OS team still remained fully focused and committed for the long run to working with Google’s partners on tablets.

Recent developments, probably catalysed by the success of the Samsung foldables, might have forced the tech giant to have a rethink. With rumours that Google is working on a foldable of their own, it seems inevitable that the company might be returning to the tablet space in some way, as the foldable could be a phone that opens up to be a tablet like the Galaxy Fold 3.

As Apple and to some extent Samsung already have a stronghold in the tablet space, Google expecting their second push to be an overnight success is unrealistic, especially with their history of abandoning projects that are not overnight successes. There are justified reservations whether Google is in it for the long haul. If Google wants to truly catch up, there is a very long road ahead of it.

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Naftaly is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for tech, video games and pop culture. When he is not writing articles for AndroidKenya, he is probably rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the hundredth time. Email at criskariuki@gmail.com Twitter @KarisNaftaly

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