The software company Oracle is suing Google over the latter's use of Oracle's intellectual property in its Android operating system, and the trial is shaping up to be an illuminating look at the inside of Google over the period in which it built up to launching its first phone.
Today, we find out that, as of July 2010, Google expected to sell 10 million Android tablets over the course of 2011, and to capture a third of the entire tablet market.
Those are big figures, given at the time there wasn't a single Android tablet available. Two years on, and it seems like the first of the goals has been achieved, but the second is a long way off. The Verge reported in February that 12 million Android tablets had been sold, a figure which doesn't count tablets like Amazon's Kindle Fire which run on the Android operating system but don't have any of the hooks into Google's software suite.
As for the marketshare target, it appears Google – or rather, Morgan Stanley, upon whose analysis the figures are based – underestimated the potential size of the tablet market. They assumed that there would be 46 million sold by the end of 2012. In fact, Apple alone has sold 67 million iPads, with two thirds of the year (including Christmas) left to go.
The path ahead doesn't look any clearer for Google in the tabloid market. Comscore today reported that more than half of all Android tablets sold in February were Kindle Fires. These tablets run Android, and are cross compatible with a number of apps, but have none of Google's proprietary software installed, and so offer the advertising giant no easy way to monetize their use. The success of the Kindle Fire would be good for Android qua open source operating system, but not so good for Android qua Google's saviour from the declining returns of search advertising.
Google has a long way to go in the tablet space, and its start can't have been helped by thinking that a sizeable market share was a fait accompli.