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The mere fact that Google is reportedly working closely with Verizon on developing the tablet shows that the company is already ahead of where it was with the Nexus One smartphone, which the company tried to spring on the market without an exclusive carrier.
Although it initially looked as though all four major U.S. wireless carriers would carry the device on their networks, both Sprint and Verizon recently balked and said they would offer alternative Android-based devices on their networks instead.
Additionally, sales for the Nexus One have been a huge disappointment, as it only sold 135,000 units over its first 74 days. In contrast, the Motorola Droid and the original Apple iPhone both sold over a million units over their first 74 days on the market.
But just because Google's own initial device offering has fallen flat so far doesn't mean that the company is doomed to repeat failure with its tablet. Here are some ways that the Google tablet could differentiate itself on the tablet market and compete with Apple's iPad:
* Hook up with a big carrier: As mentioned earlier, Google is already on the ball with this, as Verizon's 87 million-plus wireless subscribers give it a much larger market to work with than T-Mobile ever did with the Nexus One. This works out well for Verizon as well, since the carrier has been clamoring for more high-profile devices to compete with the Apple iPhone being offered by rival AT&T. Now that Verizon has had solid success with the Motorola Droid smartphone, it could be banking on a repeat performance with other Android-based smartphones and tablets.
* Be the first to the market with LTE: Verizon will be the first carrier in the United States to offer 4G LTE services, as the carrier plans to have its LTE network up and running in up to 30 major markets with many more to come in 2011. If Google could produce a high-quality tablet that could take advantage of high-speed mobile broadband and stream HD video over mobile broadband, it could make major waves in the tablet market. While AT&T will also be upgrading its wireless data network to LTE in the near future, it likely won’t start offering commercial services on a widespread basis until 2012. This gives Verizon about one year as the only carrier in the U.S. to offer LTE.
* Strong integration with other Google apps: As Harry McCracken of PC World has noted, one of Google's strengths as a company has been its own native applications, including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Voice. Any Google tablet would likely center around these core programs, much as Windows-based PCs center around Internet Explorer, Outlook and so forth. If Google can produce a strong tablet with good hardware and connectivity, it could serve as a real showcase for its software.
Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.