There's plenty of tablet excitement in the air as we head towards CES. While tablets may steal the show at CES, the holiday shopping season is still dominated by the iPad with some exceptions like the Nook Color and Galaxy Tab ( both of which offer shoppers some iPad alternatives) and other Android tablets.
One of those other Android tablets, however, was recently pulled off shelves by Staples. The Viewsonic G Tablet offers a similar form factor to the Galaxy Tab, but at the lower price point of $399. The tablet also ships with its own custom user interface instead of the stock Android interface.
Staples cited a "manufacturing defect" when it announced that they were pulling the device, but Viewsonic claims that the real reason is an unusually high return rate for the tablet. The company specifically referenced the sluggish custom UI as the reason for many of the returns (along with complaints about the lack Flash support built into the device, but available through a Flash player that can be downloaded from Viewsonic's website). Viewsonic also blamed Google's lack of support for larger devices in the current Android releases for part of the problems, claiming that this caused Viewsonic and other companies to create custom UI features.
We can probably take Viewsonic's statements with a few grains of salt. After all, they still shipped an unsatisfactory UI on the device rather than fine-tuning it or waiting for Honeycomb to release an Android tablet at all (like Motorola).
Ironically, users how have rooted the G Tablet have been able to install a customized firmware version that performs much better. It's not a good statement about a manufacturer's abilities when its users can make resolve the problems better and faster than it can.
Ultimately, this debacle shows that as the tablet market expands, quality of devices is likely to vary widely. Android will probably experience these issues more than any other platform because virtually any company can customize the OS and put it on a tablet with any type of specs. That means that users will need to do more investigation (hands on time with demo units, reading reviews, and understanding the specs) about what tablets they consider in order to ensure a positive experience.