Google Nexus 7 Could Significantly Influence the Great Tablet Wars

Melissa J Perenson June 29, 2012
Google Nexus 7 Could Significantly Influence the Great Tablet Wars
Android still has a long way to go to best Apple. But the arrival of the Nexus 7, with Android 4.1 as its OS, may shake up the market.

With the launch of its Nexus 7 tablet, Google gives the current tablet market a much-needed jolt of energy.

The Nexus 7 is the tablet that Google should have launched with a year ago. The Nexus 7 packs a high-performance, no-compromise set of features at attractive prices--$199 for the 8GB model and $249 for the 16GB model. 

This winning--on paper--combo will immediately put the Nexus at center stage. It also will make all current Android tablet makers reevaluate their own offerings on the market. But selling a tablet directly to consumers online, with no clear changes to the app ecosystem behind it, won't be enough for Google to gain market share at Apple's expense.

Manufactured by Asus, the Nexus 7 tablet represents the first commercial manifestation of Nvidia's Project Kai. Nvidia designed the Kai reference platform to provide manufacturers with a shortcut blueprint of how to create a competitive tablet at consumer-friendly pricing. 

At CES 2012, when Nvidia and Asus announced plans to produce a Tegra 3 tablet for $250, the two companies clearly had the Amazon Kindle Fire in their sights. 

The Kindle Fire, which shipped last fall, is the best-selling Android tablet thanks in large part to its low price of $199. But the Kindle Fire takes a lot of heat for its mediocre 1024-by-600-pixel display, its forked Android operating system, its limited specs (no camera, little onboard storage, no expansion), and its slow performance. Sales numbers for the Kindle Fire have dropped off since the initial burst of enthusiasm from consumers; but no other Android tablet has made a significant impact, either. 

Google Takes Charge of Its Own Tablet--Sort Of
Google's move into the tablet arena with its own branded Nexus tablet is significant for several reasons. First, it shows that the company recognizes how important it is for an OS maker to be deeply involved in creating hardware that complements its own software.

For evidence, look no further than the mess of compromises and mediocrity we've seen from Android tablets over the past year, including poor choices in weight, processors, display, and design.

In today's Apple-dominated, post-PC age, a tablet with hardware designed independently of its operating system is unlikely to emerge as an impressive flagship device. And certainly that approach isn't the way to generate the Apple-level frenzy that every tablet maker yearns for.

That's why Microsoft jumped into the PC hardware fray for the first time in 37 years, with last week's introduction of the Microsoft Surface tablet.