Google's Hugo Barra: Android tablets have 'been lagging,' but change is coming

Really good piece on the state of Android tablets. Google seems to be getting its act together to do something about it on behalf of the entire Android ecosystem. However, the iPad has a huge lead and even with Google’s undivided attention, it will take some time for Android tablets to reach app parity: 

Android’s nagging tablet app problem is a long standing and well known issue, though Barra rightly argues that the situation has vastly improved compared to a year ago — and it’s no fluke. Google had been working to address the problem for a long time, and over the last 12 months, the company published a “Tablet App Quality Checklist” that spells out how to make tablet apps not suck, run “Developer Stories” on its corporate blogs in a bid to inspire lagging developers, and created a section of Google Play devoted to showing off tablet apps. Gaming is another example where Android is making big push, Barra says. On Wednesday, Google began rolling out Android 4.3 which includes Open GL ES 3.0 support for faster and more detailed graphics rendering. The company also introduced a new Google Play Games app that lets users see what their friends are playing and track achievements. Barra believes developers are responding to the tablet gaming push. “If you look at the top 20 highest grossing game developers on iOS and Android, 19 of them are on Android with the majority of, if not all of, their titles,” he says. While Barra is correct in arguing that Android gaming has improved, most developers still launch their games on iOS first, and key franchises such as Infinity Blade remain painfully absent.

I like that Barra isn’t afraid to critique Android device manufactures openly and admit that ‘the Android ecosystem hasn’t yet put its best foot forward, when it comes to tablets’:

"If you look at the execution that HTC did on [the One smartphone], it’s pristine," he said. "Why hasn’t someone done that on the tablet? Or on like ten tablets?" Part of the reason that Android tablets lack the sophistication of devices like the HTC One is pricing, Barra tells us. "I think we are perhaps coming close to it, but this is a $200 device," he says of the Nexus 7 and the HTC One’s build quality. "If you were to price it at $300 or $400 you could do something a little bit more in that territory in terms of polish and finish and materials and so on. Why hasn’t that happened yet?"

The Verge has reviewed the new Nexus 7 which aims to continue to help rectify the situation, as did the original version of this tablet:

It’s sold far better than any other Nexus product, and Google cites it as a device that has pushed the entire Android ecosystem forward. Google believes that the Nexus line will help foster a more competitive Android ecosystem. However, Nexus 7 can’t do it alone, and Barra believes that help — on the hardware side at least — is on the way. “Doing that at the $400 category can be done and it will,” he said. “In my opinion, the Android ecosystem has been lagging behind a little bit but is catching up.”

'lagging behind a little' may be understating it a bit, but you've gotta love his enthusiasm. However, at the end of the day, the common denominator will always be apps:

Still, having the fastest, thinnest tablets in the world won’t mean much if the app you’re looking for just isn’t there.

I think the ecosystem will eventually get there, like Android on smartphones, but the tricky part is going to be getting quality developers on board now to start the push. Another key market to keep an eye on.