It was something of a non-secret that Google would be launching a 7-inch tablet this week at its developer conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco. However we get an early look (apparently) at the device courtesy of Gizmodo Australia and CNET.
What’s being reported is that there are two models: a 8GB unit that will cost $199 and a 16GB model coming in at $249. The hardware maker is apparently (as rumored) ASUS. However the tablet will be branded Google Nexus according to reports.
It’s possible that there will be other screen sizes but 7-inches is a certainty. And that’s where the market opening and opportunity are for Google. Back in January Google’s Eric Schmidt said, “In the next six months, we plan to market a tablet of the highest quality.”
Google has been frustrated by the failure of Android tablets (other than Kindle Fire) to gain traction in the market. Not unlike Microsoft with Surface it took matters into its own hands.
While the iPad is the indirect target of Google’s new 7-inch tablet, Kindle Fire and Amazon are the direct target. Kindle Fire is an Android tablet only in a technical sense. Google search is available on the device but everything else in branded Amazon and controlled by Amazon, including the app store. Google has a marginal presence there.
With a “highest quality” tablet matching Kindle Fire’s price — arguably the primary reason for its success — Google should have an immediate hit on its hands, although we”ll have to hold and use the tablet before we can make that assessment.
Amazon may respond to the Nexus tablet with a price cut to keep it cheaper than Google’s tablet. However it has been very difficult for these devices to be profitable for their makers below $200. In fact Amazon reportedly loses money up front on every Kindle Fire sold but compensates through content and other sales.
It will be possible for wireless carriers to give away the Nexus tablet with a two-year contract. However the overwhelming majority of tablets sold are the WiFi only versions. People are disinclined to hook themselves into more carrier fees and contracts.
Prior rumors suggested that the Google tablet would come in under the Kindle Fire, possibly as low as $150. That’s still possible. We’ll have to see on Wednesday. We’ll be live-blogging the keynote from Google I/O.
You can read a lot more coverage and speculation about the new Google device at Techmeme.