So here's the thing about iPad alternatives... There aren't any. :-)
(Deep breath, Stace! Breath! Stay calm, think calming thoughts... :-) )
I've taken a look at some alternatives, the Samsung Galaxy being of particular note and probably the best I've seen of the few I physically looked at. The Barnes & Noble Nook is pretty good; nice form factor, decent screen and a decent market presence - but it's actually not running Android. Amazon's Kindle Fire is getting a lot of press, but I didn't hold one of those in my paws. There's an Android version of that one, but I don't know how well it's doing. It's certainly cheap enough - $199 for the basic version. Most of them seem to start at about $200, going up from there but not quite reaching the exorbitant levels the iPad starts at ($399).
Tough competition, basically. But there's no market for third party apps. There's a desperate need for them, but that's different to having a viable market. Most of the problem lies with Google; in the case of the Nook, the problem is B&N and Amazon's reputation in the third party developer market is best described as "desperate" and "adversarial". But getting back to Google. They've taken a distinctly hands-off approach to their operating system. Based on Linux 1.6, it is a highly restricted version of the operating system, it's varied in implementation and its security update process is, to all intents and purposes, essentially non-existent. Each phone provider or carrier can provide their own version of the OS; while laudably libertarian, it also means that no one can be sure if their app will work on any particular device or not. (One firm in Hong Kong apparently tests on over 400 devices!) And that's a problem.
Android has about 68% of the market, and its market share is growing - especially in Asia. (One thing I found odd was that none of the books on Android programming I looked at paid much more than lip service to internationalization issues.) One of the biggest problems is that much of the growth is coming from China. What this means is that your app might be arbitrarily censored or that it will be ripped off wholesale. Official corruption and an almost complete lack of intellectual property rights are two very important factors for anyone doing business in China; it's why China might (probably will) become the world's largest economy, but that will be essentially meaningless. The other big problem is that you have no way of knowing if Chinese authorities are monitoring your app to see if they can use it for other purposes, such as hacking into western government and press systems. (No, that's not a trivial concern. China is a police state.) The complete lack of transparent, accountable governments in that whole part of the world has political implications for apps and app developers.
But beyond that is the technical fragmentation of Android. This is probably the most significant problem with the Android ecosystem; it's difficult, impossible, to develop a market when buyers can't be sure your app runs on their phone. What has developed is a dichotomous marketplace: we have the stringency of Apple's AppStore and the libertarianism of the Android's various efforts. Profits, by an overwhelming margin, go to those who write apps for Apple devices. It's because while Apple is unnecessarily stringent both technically and politically, it's not technically arbitrary. Before you start developing for Apple devices, you have a fairly good idea of what is acceptable. Now, the AppStore is known for being a little arbitrary in its implementation, and excessively opaque when problems occur, but, as an entrepreneur that unless you're pushing the boundaries, Apple will generally accept your app. Those controls don't exist for Android - which is good. A free marketplace is always more valuable than a centrally controlled one. But what's not so good is that there are no controls whatsoever on the underlying operating system!
Imagine the chaos that would result if Microsoft had different API's for each version of Windows; and that vendors could replace certain bits at will, and were not obliged to tell you. Now add in that you can change the entire look of the application simply to fit your corporate standards, etc. It would be impossible to write code; the market for Windows apps would be smaller because of the inherent difficulties such a business model creates and you'd never be able to design a user interface that made sense. Technical libertarianism sounds good, and it is, but it doesn't create markets!
If Bill Gates was still leading Microsoft, I'd be able to point to them as an alternative; a solid base that can be relied on, a decent security update mechanism and a user interface model that can be manipulated but is generally consistent. Unfortunately, he's not in charge. Steve Ballmer is. As a result I can point to Windows 8 and say "there's not even system to develop against!" As a result, there are two business models: Apple's unnecessarily and annoyingly strict model, and Android's free-for-all. Apple generates profits for app developers and Android, well, doesn't. (I think it's telling that more free apps are downloaded for Android than for Apple devices.)
It really does seem that Apple will accomplish what Dana couldn't, doesn't it? "Not necessarily" is my reply. :-)