The current state of Android based tablets is all over the place. Android version 2.x was only intended for smart phones and is completely open source. Android version 3.x is only intended for tablets, and supposedly would perform very poorly on a smart phone so Google has withheld the source code and only provided it to select vendors such as Samsung and Motorola who are committed to providing quality devices running the best software. Because of this there are not as many apps that work on 3.x as there are 2.x because things are not as unified. The upcoming version of Android codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich (rumored to be version 4.0, but some are claiming it may be 2.4) is designed to work on all devices and will be open sourced. In theory, this means that any app that runs on Android 4.0 will work fine on a phone and on a tablet. It’s because of all of this that I have always told anyone who wanted an Android tablet to wait for Ice Cream Sandwich so that they get an optimal experience on tablets and access to the most apps.
But there are many vendors that don’t like that they need Google’s approval to run Android 3.x, and are disappointed that there are less apps for 3.x then there are 2.x so they have just taken the freely available 2.x source code and done what they want with it. Amazon is one of those companies that decided to take the 2.x branch. They have created devices that are meant for media consumption, but are not trying to be all purpose tablets that take on the iPad.
Amazon is very committed to Android. They have created their own app store to compete with Google, have stripped out all Google products/features from their device. And have created their own Web browser called Amazon Silk that differs greatly from the stock Android browser. The Silk browser basically copies the Opera Turbo, only it runs on Amazon’s cloud. Silk really does sound like a cool browser, and I honestly don’t see why Silk has to run just on the Amazon powered tablets, or even if it has to be exclusive to Android, but we have not heard any info on whether or not this will be the case.
That being said, none of this is anywhere close to what I want in an tablet. Yes, I see the value in a media consumption device — I recently wrote about should comics go digital and DC comics has just announced that 100 of its graphic novels exclusive to the Kindle Fire, so I can see how this is beneficial to some — but I really want a tablet to be something that can increase my productivity. Back in 2004 or 2005 when I was a student at SUNY Brockport one of my classmates had a Windows based tablet that could record all of the audio from a presentation as he wrote on it using his stylus. He could go back to earlier in the presentation and see what he was writing at that time. It was very useful. If that could convert the writing to text and if it could also record the video I’d be very happy (though that might make it difficult to write on). I am tired of writing notes by hand, and then having to type the notes later, and frankly I’m not really a big fan of having to do a lot of typing while in a meeting. If Microsoft got it with tablets over 6 years ago why aren’t we seeing it today now that tablets are actually popular? Do we need Apple to add it to the iPad so that consumers will start clamoring for it and calling it innovative?