Android chief: We must 'double down' on tablets, win the market

Andy Rubin says 12 million Android tablets have been activated so far--and that Google will focus heavily on boosting that number this year.

Andy Rubin talking Android last year.
Andy Rubin talking Android last year. James Martin/CNET

BARCELONA, Spain--Android is far behind Apple's iPad in total units sold, but Andy Rubin says 2012 could be the year where that changes.

Speaking today at Mobile World Congress in Barcleona, Google's Android chief said that users have activated 12 million Android-based tablets so far. According to The Verge, which first reported on his comments, Rubin said that the figure was "not insignificant, but less than I'd expect it to be if you really want to win" the tablet market.

That might be an understatement. During the fourth quarter of 2011 alone, Apple sold over 15 million iPads worldwide. In all of 2011, the company sold about 40 million iPads. It took Android, according to Rubin, two years to hit 12 million units. And if that figure includes Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet, which reportedly reached 5 million to 6 million unit sales in the fourth quarter, it doesn't leave much for all the other slates that hit store shelves over the last couple years.

Still, Rubin has high hopes. He says that "2012 is going to be the year that we double down and make sure we're winning" in the tablet market.

Rubin didn't say what he has planned to beat Apple's iPad. Google has so far relied on hardware vendors using its operating system in their many devices. Apple, meanwhile, only offers its operating system on its own line of products. The strategy has paid off mightily in the smartphone market where Android holds a commanding lead. Whether Google can pull off a repeat in the tablet market remains unclear.

But don't expect Google to make Motorola Mobility a priority in that strategy. During his talk today, Rubin said that his company plans to stay "neutral" after it closes its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility . Neutrality, he said, is the only way to ensure Android stays "successful."

That's music to the ears of executives of other Android handset makers around the world. When Google announced plans to acquire Motorola Mobility last year, there was some concern among industry observers that the search giant would give preferential treatment to its new buy. Google, however, quickly threw cold water on those concerns, saying that the focus of its acquisition was patent protection .

"The Android ecosystem is the No. 1 priority, and that we won't do anything with Motorola, or anybody else, by the way, that would screw up the dynamics of that industry," Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said last year. "We need strong, hard competition among all the Android players. We won't play favorites in the way people are concerned about."

Aside from his Mobile World Congress talk, Rubin revealed today on his Google+ page that 850,000 Android-based phones and tablets are activated each day . All told, 300 million Android phones have been activated since the platform's inception.

 

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