Is Android Ready for Samsung’s New Tablet?

Samsung will introduce a slate device running Google’s Android operating system this quarter, in an effort to capitalize on the tablet frenzy created by Apple’s iPad (s aapl). The Samsung tablet will use a 7-inch display, the company told Reuters, making the device smaller than the iPad, which uses a 9.7-inch screen. No additional details on the tablet are available, although UnwiredView found a reported picture of the slate, showing it to be similar to the iPad in design. Such a device faces immediate challenges, however, even though Samsung has a richer history of creating tablets than most other electronics companies.

In 2006, Samsung was among the first to create a 7-inch touchscreen tablet, the Q1. The ultra-mobile PC ran Microsoft Windows (s msft) using an Intel Celeron (s intc) processor and an 800 x 600 resolution screen. Samsung improved upon the original device with numerous new models that used higher resolution displays and more energy-efficient processors. Even after four years of selling tablets, Samsung hasn’t sold as many Q1 devices as the 3 million iPads Apple has sold since April of this year. But Samsung has experience building tablets, which could help it with a new slate this quarter.

Unfortunately, Android isn’t yet optimized for a tablet by Samsung, or anyone else for that matter. Froyo, the most current version of Android  just starting to roll out to existing handsets from carriers, is still limited to an 854 x 480 screen resolution. That’s fine for a smartphone or a tablet up to five inches in size, but larger displays won’t look as crisp with so few pixels spread out. Unless Samsung has access to a newer version of Android, such as Gingerbread, and that newer version supports higher resolutions, a 7-inch Android slate won’t provide an optimal end-user experience.

Another key problem Samsung faces is a lack of Android Market support on non-smartphone devices. Prior Android tablets haven’t had native access Android’s software ecosystem, which greatly reduces the appeal of a Android tablet, since most consumers want to buy apps. It’s possible that Google (s goog) is working with Samsung and others to modify what devices can access the Market, but currently, few non-phone devices have gained it. In cases like this, the tablet manufacturers have created their own pseudo-Market, but for an Android tablet to succeed in the mass market, it’s going to need native Market access.

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Image credit: UnwiredView