While you watch Apple, the Android Army marches forward

man binoculars distance

As the American tech press turns to San Francisco and Apple's developer conference, the real world looks to Taipei and Computex. There you see the Android Army's march against iOS. ASUS announces new Android tabs, HP takes the wraps off a laptop running the operating system, and Samsung serves up a phablet so large it crosses category boundaries. In literature, they would call this foreshadowing. Do you see how this story will unfold -- as Android manufacturers and Apple engage like factions from the Divergent series.

Android accounted for 39.7 percent of device shipments -- hybrids, PCs, phones, and tablets -- during 2013, according to Gartner. Apple's iOS and OS X: 10.4 percent. Forecast for this year puts Android at 47.2 percent and the fruit-logo platforms at 11.5 percent. That's context for today's announcements from the East and West. As I write, Apple's announcements dribble (iOS 8 and OS X 10.10) out of Worldwide Developer Conference 2014, so this post focuses on what the Android news means.

ASUS Androids. There isn't much to say. ASUS makes some of the best Android tabs anywhere. There's a reason that the company manufactures both generation Google Nexus 7 tablets. The refreshed Transformer is the attention-getter. I know plenty of people who use one of these with attachable keyboard as their primary PC.

HP SlateBook. I don't know why HP loves bulky 14-inch laptops so much, because I don't. That said, the large screen is sensible as an Android laptop, rather than tablet with added keyboard. HP differentiates from other Androids, as well as Apple iPad Air or Microsoft Surface 3. In this case, size matters.

HP introduced the new laptop with its back-to-school line. At $399, SlateBook is pricier than Chromebook but Android's app selection, Millennials' seeming preference for apps over the browser, and the touchscreen make this a schoolhouse contender against iPad. Is it a winner, though? I will need to review one to answer.

Samsung Galaxy W. Last week, IDC lowered its tablet shipment forecast, citing slower refresh cycles and phablet competition. "Consumers are keeping their tablets, especially higher-cost models from major vendors, far longer than originally anticipated -- and when they do buy a new one they are often passing their existing tablet off to another member of the family", Tom Mainelli, IDC vice president, says. Other factor: "The rise of phablets -- smartphones with 5.5-inch and larger screens -- are causing many people to second-guess tablet purchases as the larger screens on these phones are often adequate for tasks once reserved for tablets".

Galaxy W blurs the line further, by offering data and voice cellular capability in a 7-inch screen size. But don't hold that thing to your face to talk! Also, the 1280 by 720 screen resolution is oh-so 2012. The concept is rightly timed. Apple, and many Android tab makers, sell nothing that competes in the rapidly rising category.

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