Difference Between Tablet Operating Systems

The major operating systems working on various tablets are Apple iOS 6 on iPad, Android (various versions) on a number of Android tablets, and Microsoft Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 Pro on Surface and other Windows tablets. Other less popular ones include the BlackBerry Tablet OS, WebOS (HP), etc. Let’s take a look at these operating systems and see the major differences.

The Market


Tablet market share of each of these tablet operating systems is as follows (including mobile & tablet PCs and data for the year 2012). Data has been provided by Hitslink market research.

Market share of tablet operating systems


According to the data, the most number of tablets sold are by Apple, and the only tablet that they sell is iPad (besides iPad Mini, which is more or less a phablet though). Apple is still ‘king of the avenue’ in this regard.

The Differences


Here are the major differences between these tablet operating systems. This will enable you to make better decisions when you buy a new tablet.

Property Android iOS MS Windows Amazon Kindle Barnes & Noble Nook
Number and variety of tablets Several iPad & iPad Mini A few Kindle Fire & Fire HD Nook HD
Operating System Android (latest Jelly Bean) Apple iOS 6 Windows RT & Windows 8 Pro Modified version of Android ICS Modified Android ICS
Apps Nearly 700,000 (including the ones not optimized for tablets specifically) Total of 700,000, out of which 275,000 optimized for iPad & Mini Around 100,000 (including phone apps) of which most are plain junk. Around 60,000 (from Amazon’s special app store for Android) Around 10,000 (available from Barnes & Noble store for Android)
Software Updates As it becomes available on Google (for Nexus, directly, and for other manufacturers, as they become available) Apple releases updates MS releases updates Amazon releases updates BN releases updates
Interface As designed by manufacturer (on Nexus line, the original unaltered Android interface) Icons & widgets designed by Apple similar to Mac OS Metro style designed by Microsoft Modified version of regular Android interface (known to be slightly better looking) Modified Android (criticized for worse looks)


When you are making decision on which tablet to buy, it is important to know what it can do, i.e., what kind of operating system it runs and how many apps it has available. Also important is the quality of the apps available in the tablet. Apple iOS has the most number of tablet-optimized apps currently, and most of these apps are valuable due to Apple’s strict inclusion policies.

Android has a lot of apps, although most of them are not optimized for a tablet. This makes Android a less equipped operating system for tablet computers.

Microsoft Windows store, we have found, contains several clone apps, quite useless indeed. We have to wait till a good app store is developed for Windows before we can purchase tablets. Also, don’t you think Surface is ridiculously overpriced?

Amazon’s Kindle Fire is already making waves as a great tablet, due to its amazingly low price and high-end features. Amazon makes money off the app and book sales after the tablet purchase rather than through the purchase.

Nook has got mostly unfavorable reviews for its performance (even with a powerful processor). Also, the Nook store has only a fraction of the popular apps available in Android store.

The major disadvantage of Kindle Fire and Nook is that they cannot work with Google Play store, but only with their proprietary app stores. This is indeed a major disadvantage. Although Amazon has flourished despite this disadvantage, Nook is lagging behind and may probably trail into oblivion.

Tablet OS Failures


HP’s TouchPad with WebOS, something that HP developed after acquiring Palm became a failure at the end of 2011, and it ended up having much less than 10,000 apps with development not done actively. By the end of last year itself, TouchPads have been sold out for very low price and some of these tablets even shipped with Android installed. That was one of the classic failures in the tablet market.

At the very low end of tablet market resides BlackBerry PlayBook. As RIM’s business in tablet and smartphone market may have come close to an end, PlayBook did not make any waves in the market.



Choosing a tablet has a lot to do with its operating system. The availability of apps depends on which operating system you are using. Since Android is the major open source operating system out there, it will account for a number of customized developments and the highest number of adopting manufacturers. That doesn’t mean that all Android tablets are great. You should understand your needs before selecting the right operating system.

[Image credit: Hitslink]

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