The battle between Android and iOS is fascinating; In smartphones, the fact that for a few years iPhone was available exclusively in AT&T, along with Android's openness, endless flexibility, and variety of forms factors, all made Android a huge success: it is not only a very good alternative to the iPhone – it was the only alternative that provided a decent UI, AppStore, complete touch experience, and of course – the Google experience. During 2010, Android became the leading smartphones OS, but failed to compete with the iOS in the tablets area.
When it comes to tablets, the story is completely different because the needs are different: the applications quality is far more important than the quantity, the expectations for perfect usability exceeds the need to customize everything, and for many users, the cellular part is not relevant (Wifi only) or at least not as important as with smartphones.
Bottom line is that for tablets, until this point of time at least, Android OS doesn't provide any killer advantage over the iOS, except maybe for true multi-tasking and Flash. So the only places to change the rules of the game are the hardware and price.
While it will be very difficult to compete with the hardware of the iPad 2, which generally speaking brings everything that was missing in version one while still keeping the slick thin design – price is a different thing: if you can build a similar product, running Android 3.0, but with a much lower price – you could take a shot at beating Apple in its' strongest area: tablets.
So far companies such as Samsung and Motorola failed to do so, which is probably one of the reasons why iPad barely suffered from a proper competition, but it seems like things are just about to change soon: Samsung has recently announced 3 new tablets models in different sizes (adding 10.1 and 8.9), running latest Android OS, and most of all – priced lower than the iPad.
Here's a quote from ZDNet's Between the lines:
Samsung has changed its tablet strategy and this time the company has an approach that is a lot more competitive with the Apple iPad on price, form factor, and overall features. We’ll have to wait until we do a full review of the new Samsung devices to decide if the overall product experience approaches what Apple has to offer, but since the Samsung tablet doesn’t arrive until early summer and will be running Android 3.0, that gives Google time to repair the Honeycomb problems we saw in the Motorola Xoom and it gives developers time to write a lot more tablet-optimized apps for Android 3.0
The two new tablets that Samsung announced at CTIA have nailed the price tag. One is an 8.9-inch model and the other is a 10.1-inch model and both are priced at or below the entry level iPad. The 8.9-inch is aimed at consumers and its Wi-Fi version starts at $469 for 16GB. The 10.1-inch tablet is aimed at enterprise business professionals and it starts at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version
Would be interesting to see if Android tablets can repeat the success of the smartphones chasing iOS until they actually bypass it.