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Google chases Apple with tablet version of Android

Android 12L, the new OS for tablets, foldables and Chromebooks, will include new ways to use the split-screen feature, but analysts are doubtful it will appeal to enterprises.

For the first time this decade, Google will release an operating system upgrade for tablets. The tech giant is emulating Apple with an array of multitasking features, but it has a way to go to make it in the enterprise market, analysts said.

Android 12L, which Google announced this week, follows 2011's Android 3.0 Honeycomb and adds a smorgasbord of user interface features. The new OS is now available in developer preview and will be generally available early next year.

Google said it optimized Android 12L, its follow-up to the recently released Android 12, for large-screen devices like tablets, Chromebooks and foldables.

The new OS does more with split-screen capabilities. Quick Settings, notifications and the lock screen will appear in a two-column layout. Device users will also be able to drag and drop apps from the taskbar into either side of the screen to split the screen between two apps.

Raul Castanon, an analyst at 451 Research, said the multitasking and productivity developments mirror what Apple did with the new iPad OS 15.

"It's fair to say that Google is catching up to Apple, but on the other hand, these features have become table stakes for mobile devices," Castanon said.

Approximately 76% of 600 respondents to the Corporate Devices 2021 Macroeconomic Outlook survey conducted by 451 Research said their organizations provided them with iOS tablets.

Another study by 451 Research found that approximately 19% of 692 enterprise respondents used tablets several times a day for work. About 20% used tablets daily, and about 45% did not use them at all.

Google said the beta released this week is aimed at developers looking to create applications that take advantage of the new features.

"12L is for developers looking to optimize their apps for larger screen experiences, an increasingly prominent part of the Android ecosystem," said a Google spokesperson.

There are more 250 million large screen Android devices in use today, according to Google. But those numbers count Chromebooks as well, which are popular among educators and other sectors.

"I don't believe Android 12L will boost Android tablet usage in the enterprise market," said Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner, explaining that there is already limited use of tablets in the enterprise. And organizations supporting iPad OS are not likely to experiment with another tablet.

Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.

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