Samsung Galaxy Tab at Verizon Defines Battle between Android and iOS

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The new Samsung Galaxy Tab will reportedly be offered through Verizon here in the United States. The tablet--which is set to be officially unveiled at an event in Germany later this week--is Android-based and illustrates how the wireless providers have chosen sides in the mobile OS war.

The Samsung tablet looks like it will be the first serious contender to challenge the dominant Apple iPad. Based on the established order, it only makes sense that the Android-based tablet will be offered through the preferred Android wireless provider.

The war between the mobile OS superpowers is being fought by proxy on the wireless provider battleground. Just as the United States and the Soviet Union engaged each other indirectly in conflicts like North Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, Apple and Google have drawn battle lines pitting AT&T and Verizon against each other.

There are persistent rumors that Verizon will soon offer the Apple iPhone, and AT&T does have a handful of Android smartphones in its inventory, but don't be fooled. The definition of "soon" is entirely open to interpretation when it comes to a Verizon iPhone, and the Android devices sold by AT&T are sad compared to what Verizon has to offer.

AT&T has been defined by its relationship with Apple and its role as the sole provider of the iPhone in the United States. That bond has been reinforced with the launch of the iPhone 4, and expanded by the iPad tablet. Devices like the Dell Streak tablet and Aero smartphone are almost an insult to Android and seem hand-picked to drive customers to the Apple side of the AT&T store. For all intents and purposes, AT&T has essentially become "Apple Wireless".

At the same time, Verizon has emerged as the champion of all-things Android. Verizon has invested considerable time and money marketing its Droid brand--comprised of best-selling, cutting edge Android smartphones from Motorola and HTC. HTC is expected to launch an Android-based tablet with Verizon to kick off the Black Friday holiday shopping season, and now Samsung is supposedly allying its Android tablet with Verizon as well.

The divide between wireless providers when it comes to iOS and Android makes it difficult to directly compare the platforms as phones, or to directly compare the performance of either wireless provider. Being able to use an iPhone on the Verizon network, or a Droid X on the AT&T network might help resolve some long-standing debates about whether the issues reported by AT&T customers are a function of the iPhone itself, deficiencies in the AT&T network, or simply too much demand.

Leveling the playing field would seem to be in both Apple and Verizon's interests. Analysts have suggested that Apple could double iPhone sales by expanding availability. A recent report claims that as much as half of Verizon's customers would eagerly embrace the iPhone, and that a sizeable percentage of users would defect from other providers to grab a Verizon iPhone.

For now, though, Verizon equals Android, and AT&T equals iOS, and that doesn't look like it is going to change in the immediate future.

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