I get the feeling that Google never really wanted Android tablets to exist in the first place and is just now playing catch up in response to the obvious demand. The company has another mobile operating system in the works called Google Chrome OS, which is basically an OS built around a web browser. Instead of downloaded apps, it will run web apps, although we expect there to be some offline caching capabilities which should let you do things like read eBooks or watch videos even when an internet connection isn’t handy.
Since Google is first and foremost a company that makes its revenue from web-based advertising and web-based software, it’s no surprise that Google’s vision for the future is cloud-based apps instead of downloads. Google doesn’t offer as many desktop apps as it used to, instead focusing on the cloud.
If Chrome OS were ready to go earlier this year, I suspect Google still wouldn’t be thinking about Android for tablets — unless Chrome OS turned out to be a big flop with users clamoring for downloadable apps. Don’t forget, when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, it didn’t have native apps either. He insisted that the development platform for the iPhone was the web, and the phone was designed primarily to run web apps. Today, there are over 250,000 native apps available in the App Store because, let’s face it, web apps just aren’t always going to do the job.
Anyway, long story short — I’d be shocked at this point if Google didn’t respond to the huge demand for Android tablets by finally pushing a tablet friendly version of the operating system by the end of the year. But I don’t really think Google is going to be happy about it… and pushing a version of Android that isn’t exclusively for phones could be all it takes for Chrome OS to be dead on arrival. After all, who needs a web-browser based operating system when you’ve already got an always-on, light weight mobile OS that includes its own Webkit-based browser and the ability to run tens of thousands of third party native apps?