Chris Selland

I get up, and nothing gets me down

Ecosystem > Device

Although I have an Android tablet that supports content from both Amazon & Barnes & Noble, I took a hard look at both Kindle and Nook devices during the holidays. Partly because I wanted a companion device to bring to the beach/pool/etc… and partly because the idea of a cheap tablet had some appeal.

What struck me was that, excepting price, on almost every aspect the Nook devices (both B&W readers & tablets) were clearly superior to the Amazon devices.

Yet I eventually wound up buying a Kindle because, quite simply, Amazon has an ecosystem build around their content that B&N doesn’t have.

So I have to question whether separating the Nook unit from the rest of Barnes & Noble is going to help. Seems much more likely this is prelude to a breakup and selloff of the assets.

I also wonder how Apple will respond. I am fully aware that the iPad is a superior device (although I’d argue that Android tablets are closing that gap rapidly) but, as beautiful as they are, whether Apple can continue to sell a premium-priced tablet with a mostly-closed content ecosystem is highly questionable. Yes the Kindle Fire is even more closed, but at a much lower price point. The dynamics that play out throughout 2012 should be interesting indeed.

Personally, the ‘I can use anybody’s content’ (except Apple’s) nature of my Xoom makes Android superior - and an experience I’m willing to pay a premium for. And now I have a Kindle too to bring to the beach. 

Android tablets - I’m sold

Earlier this week, Woot.com (still one of my favorite websites) ran a special on Motorola Xoom tablets, which as many know was one of the first Android-based supposed ‘iPad killers’. I gave it some thought, looked around Amazon and found an even better deal on a refurbished (open box) unit, so decided ‘what the heck’ and pulled the trigger. It showed up yesterday.

Motorola Xoom

I have an iPad (first version) and, while I overall enjoy it (and definitely have come to appreciate the value of a tablet vs. a laptop for casual computing), I had been growing a bit weary of its shortcomings.

My impression after a couple of days? I love the Xoom - more than I expected. Since I was already sold on Android phones, perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised, but I am.

Why? First (and probably most importantly) because I absolutely live in Google services - Gmail, Contacts, Calendar, Docs, etc.. - I am heavily invested in these services, and being able to simply enter my credentials and have everything there almost instantly is (sorry Steve Jobs) magical. It’s also a reason I am a Spanning Backup fan and advocate - because my life’s in Google’s cloud - so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Google devices work for me.

But it’s also the overall flexibility of the platform - I am an admitted gadget geek, and love to play around with and tweak my screens, my apps, and the various ways I want to do things. I want my devices to adapt to me, not vice versa.

Is Android for everyone? Certainly not. Apple has a huge advantage in fit and finish - while I am pretty impressed with the overall polish of Honeycomb, it is most definitely not caught up with iOS, and there are plenty of quirky menu structures and ‘how do I do this?’ moments. (some of those were alleviated since I’ve been using an Android phone so long).

Not to mention the well-known advantage Apple holds in developer support - I was able to find most every app I regularly use for Android (some even have tablet versions, with more to undoubtedly come), but there’s certainly nowhere near the breadth or depth of apps available that are available for iPad. I’m going to miss Flipboard in particular (Android has Pulse which is similar but just not the same), and also the gorgeous iPad version of Twitter.

It’s a trade-off, and as I’ve said many times, I am a fan of and have the utmost respect for Apple (I remain a very avid Mac user). But I’m willing to put up with a few seams and a few less apps to gain the integration, flexibility and customizability that Android delivers. It’s still early, but I’m sold.

Anybody want to buy an iPad?