Google planning to brand and sell Android tablets

Aims to park tanks on Cupertino lawn where allies failed

Google is bypassing the channel to sell co-branded Android tablets directly via web shops.

The internet advertising giant's Android operating system has struggled to take a serious bite out of Apple's fondleslab market share and now the web goliath is fixin' to take the matter in hand rather than relying on hardware partners and their respective retailers, resellers or carriers.

Quoting loquacious sources familiar with the situation, the Wall Street Journal claimed the tablets will carry Google branding alongside that of the hardware manufacturers - be they Samsung or Asus.

The launch date of the online store or indeed the first co-branded box was not specified, but the next version of Android, codenamed Jelly Bean, is due mid-2012.

According to the report, Google will start producing tablets once the $12.5bn acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings is cleared by the Chinese authorities - the deal has been approved in the US sand Europe. Motorola's tablets are also expected to be punted online.

Google tried to sell its own branded smartphone, the Nexus One, online but Vodafone and other carriers could flog the products in their stores.

Sales were sluggish but Google defended the device, saying it sold 100,000 units and broke even on the investment. Android big cheese Andy Rubin said the Nexus One was nixed as other devices were better.

Sources said Google is mulling over the possibility of subsidising its tablets to take the fight to Apple and Amazon, which is selling the Kindle Fire in the US - the Kindle Touch launches in Europe next month.

The Android user interface has been heavily criticised by analysts and the hardware manufacturers priced products too high relative to the more popular iPad - those that slashed prices, including HP and RIM, saw an uplift. Even Samsung, the world's second largest tablet maker, recently admitted that sales were below expectations.

In 2011, Android-based devices including Amazon's Kindle Fire had 32 per cent market share worldwide and Apple's iOS had 64 per cent with others - including HP, RIM and Microsoft - constituting the remainder, Canalys revealed.

Tim Coulling, analyst at Canalys, described the eco-system around Android as "nascent" but argued Google had not managed the platform to the same extent as Apple. He said: "Google needs to create the flagship device that Android has been lacking. It makes sense to create a web store to showcase some of the products, we are seeing Google take greater control of pushing Android tablets."

The search giant needs to ramp volumes to make Android-based devices more attractive to developers, said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. ®

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