iSuppli analyst on iPad vs. Android tablets (Q&A)

IHS-iSuppli analyst Wayne Lam says Apple has a pretty sizable lead in the tablet market that will persist for the foreseeable future.

An IHS-iSuppli analyst believes Android and the cadre of tablet makers that use Google's operating system won't catch up to Apple's iPad and iOS anytime soon.

Wayne Lam, senior analyst, competitive analysis, at IHS, spoke to CNET on Monday, in the wake of a research note about the iPad's design advantages over tablet suppliers that use Google's Android operating system.

In the note, Lam said that Android tablet manufacturers still can't match the design efficiency of Apple's iPad, due to, among other things, the fact that Apple controls both the operating system and hardware design of the iPad.

Question: How does Apple do more with less? For example, the iPad has half of the system memory of most competing Android tablets?
Lam: It's a post-PC use case. You're not bounded by performance. You're bounded by user interaction. I don't think a user can distinguish a performance difference or get a sense of the speed of the hardware by using it. It's a different metric.

What's the biggest competitive difference between Apple and Android?
Lam: The biggest drawback for the competing [Android] ecosystem is that you don't have the critical mass, so people aren't going to develop on your platform. Apple has a year and a half advantage. And iOS runs pretty much flawlessly between the iPad and the iPhone. Whereas with Android, Google had to split off the code before the handset went Gingerbread. And then created Honeycomb. Basically, [Google and its partners] have to wait until [Android] Ice Cream Sandwich, where that code merges together.

How long will it take Android to catch up?
Lam: All of the major [Android tablet] makers spent this past year directing all of their efforts toward finding the right mix of components. They really didn't pay attention to software. They thought, Google is doing something, we'll take whatever they have. And that's pretty much what happened. But it's still not cohesive.

But this situation is hardly static?
Lam: Of course, Android can now run Flash and you can browse the Web like what you get on your desktop [PC]. And this is only the first year that they responded. So, next year perhaps [the Android camp] will be a little bit more competitive. Maybe they can put in more eye-popping box specs and things like LTE and eventually it becomes competitive. When you think of tablets, you really have to look long term. Windows 8, what's going to happen there? And then what's going to happen with Ice Cream Sandwich? But if you're talking about the here and now. Last Christmas season, this Christmas season, pretty much all iPad.

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