This new media browser is only here because tablets saw a resurgence during lockdowns and Google can make a few dollars from that.
A new feature is coming to some Android tablets called Entertainment Space. It looks a lot like the Chromecast with Google TV interface and debuts on Walmart-branded tablets followed by select models from Lenovo and Sharp, though there’s no indication that this will be a required thing for manufacturers to incorporate. Your Galaxy Tab S or any of the other best Android tablets may or may not see this feature.
This new attention to tablets might be good news for any of us that are tablet fans, but I think it’s important to look at the reason it happened. Google still doesn’t care about Android tablets, but it does like quick solutions to capitalize on a once-in-a-lifetime sales jump.
2020 kind of sucked. Most of us were stuck at home for at least a short period, and once all the cracks in the walls were counted, we needed something to help pass the time. Besides the boredom aspect, many people quickly needed a way to see and talk to teachers and bosses, family, and friends using video conferencing. It was inevitable that things like tablets and cheap Chromebooks would see a significant uptick in sales.
The new Entertainment Space looks like it would be a nice way to see recommendations for things to keep us occupied, but it’s also a way to drive engagement and even sales for Google. See a book or movie that piques your interest? Get it from Google Play! Here’s a neat, little time-wasting game with in-app purchases that Google takes a cut of each time a transaction is made. Check them out! These are all small things, but they do add up. Probably to quite the sum when all is said and done.
Google did the right thing and found a way to make money from a one-time boost in Android tablet sales.
Google would have been stupid not to capitalize on this situation. It already knows how to combine recommendations with ways to make more money for the company because that’s exactly what the Chromecast with Google TV interface is. For each time it drives you to Hulu, it is also driving another person to YouTube to buy or rent a movie or show. It’s good business because it helps make money in a way that also benefits users.
There’s another benefit, too. It makes Google look like it is doing something we want, namely showing more attention to the Android tablet experience. Google gets to write a blog post showing off how nice the new feature looks and telling us how much we will love it. Websites like Android Central, 9to5Google, and The Verge get to pass that news along to regular people who use an Android tablet and will probably think the new feature looks pretty cool. Google looks like the good guy here, and that’s always a win.
I hate to be the one to say it out loud, but Google still doesn’t care about Android tablets. If it did, there are a whole lot of other things it could have worked on instead of bringing a new discovery feed when you swipe the home screen. Google stopped caring about Android tablets when it became obvious that it would never make money from them. Without a gazillion user eyeballs glued to advertisements on a tablet screen, there is no incentive. When we saw a presumably one-time jump in Android tablet sales, Google saw a one-time moment to cash in.
Google is a for-profit business that is supposed to try things that can make money.
Yes, I look like a cynic who hates everything and thinks Google is run by monsters. I know that. But really, this isn’t hard to sift through because Google is a business. It isn’t a company that cares about us as people — though some in the company certainly seem to be caring, kind people — it is a company that cares about turning a profit and making its shareholders happy. You make shareholders happy when you make them more money. Every decision at every for-profit organization, including Google, is made to increase the bottom line.
I wish this news meant that Google suddenly cared about Android tablets again. Gear like the Galaxy Tab S7 Plus is pretty damn amazing, but once you step away from the work Samsung did to provide a good tablet experience, you’re left with a Play Store full of things that work half-assed at best on that big beautiful slab of OLED in your hands. As a Chromebook user, I want to see large-screen optimized content and attention to a touch-based interface for big screens.
I’m not holding my breath, though. Entertainment Space will probably turn out to be a one-off that might not even make its way to better tablets that you should actually buy. That’s sad, but that’s also business as usual.