Google exec Barra: Android tablet apps catching up to Apple's iPad

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While a significant number of popular applications optimized for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad have yet to migrate to tablets running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android mobile operating system, the disparity between the two ecosystems is shrinking, contends Hugo Barra, Google's vice president of Android product management.

"The absolute position that we're in is one where well over 60 percent of the apps that you'd expect in a given category are already available with a decent tablet UI," Barra told The Verge, noting that the situation has made significant gains over the last 12 months. Barra credited the improvements to Google's Tablet App Quality Checklist, an online resource focusing on developmental challenges like optimizing software layouts for larger screens, maximizing the additional screen real estate and using icons and related assets designed for the tablet form factor, as well as a section of the Google Play storefront devoted to spotlighting tablet apps.

Barra said Google is also taking steps to increase the number of games available for Android tablets. Last week, the company released Android version 4.3, which includes Open GL ES 3.0 support for enhanced graphics rendering, alongside the Google Play Games app, which will act as a hub for Android users' gaming experiences.

Barra believes tablet game developers are responding to Google's improvements. "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 said.

Barra nevertheless admitted to frustration with the pace of Android tablet evolution. "I really do think that the Android ecosystem hasn't yet put its best foot forward, when it comes to tablets," he said, arguing that manufacturers must step up their hardware efforts. "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?"

Barra blames pricing for the schism. "I think we are perhaps coming close to [HTC One] quality, but this is a $200 device," he said. "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?"

Google released a new version of its Nexus 7 Android tablet last week. The revamp features a slimmer design than the original, and includes "true 1080p" HD resolution with 1920 x 1200 pixels as well as a quad-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2 GB of RAM, a 5-megapxiel camera, 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera and dual stereo speakers with Fraunhofer virtual surround sound. Wi-Fi-only versions of the new Nexus 7 will be available for $229 for the 16 GB model and $269 for the 32 GB model, starting July 30. A 32 GB LTE model will be available for $349 in the coming weeks.

Google Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai, who oversees Android as well as the company's Chrome efforts, said last week that Android tablet activations totaled around 10 million at the end of 2012 but have ballooned to 70 million in recent months. Pichai added that the original Nexus 7 has accounted for more than 10 percent of all Android tablet sales and that Android now makes up around half of total global tablet sales, behind the iPad.

For more:
- read this Verge article

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