It's no secret that Android tablet sales have lagged far behind Apple's iPad, and Google's planning to do something about it. In a meeting with reporters today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Android chief Andy Rubin called the 12 million Android tablets sold thus far "not insignificant, but less than I'd expect it to be if you really want to win," and said that "2012 is going to be the year that we double down and make sure we're winning in that space."
Rubin said that the biggest problem for Android on tablets is "there's no organized way for consumers to recognize it as a viable platform," and that Google wants consumers to see its tablets as part of the broader Android ecosystem. "The educated consumer realizes it now that they're either picking the Apple ecosystem or the Microsoft ecosystem or the Google ecosystem... we're going to do a better job at making people understand what ecosystem they're buying into."
"I'm hoping people decide to put in the muscle and make their apps work great on tablets."
Of course, one of Android's biggest challenges in the tablet market is the lack of high-quality apps designed for the larger screen, but Rubin was somewhat dismissive of those concerns. "Android's unique in that it's a single platform that spans device types," including tablets and TVs, Rubin told me. "Fundamentally you shouldn't have to have a third-party developer build his app twice." Pushed about the different interface requirements for tablet apps versus phone apps, Rubin admitted that "there has to be an education process and developers have to do the work" of making their apps tablet-aware on Android. "They're already doing that work for other platforms."
Rubin was also frank about the challenges of bringing developers to a tablet platform that's sold just 12 million units in two years compared to over 50 million iPads — 15 million of which were sold last quarter alone. "I can't force someone to write a tablet app," he said, adding that developers are "looking at market share and... being frugal." But he said that it was Google's responsibility to evangelize the platform and sounded optimistic about the overall momentum of Android on tablets. "We're now starting to get on the radar, and I'm hoping people decide to put in the muscle and make their apps work great on tablets."