As expected Google unveiled a $199 7-inch tablet at its developer conference, Google I/O, this morning. The “Nexus 7″ tablet is made by ASUS and comes in a WiFi only version (so far). Presumably there will be other versions later that offer more memory and/or carrier support.
The deep integration of Google’s content store, Google Play, together with its $199 pricing makes the Nexus 7 a direct and formidable rival to the Kindle Fire. An updated Fire is anticipated some time in July. But in comparison to the current Kindle Fire the Nexus 7 looks better in almost every imaginable way.
I haven’t had a chance to hold one in my hands yet — the “hands on” reviews will be popping up later today — but given everything we know so far it should give Kindle Fire some very tough competition. The Kindle Fire is really the only Android tablet to gain mass market adoption.
But given that Amazon totally controls that device, including the appstore, Google decided to take matters into its owns hands and create a “highest quality” tablet, to use the words of Eric Schmidt. This is the result of that initiative.
Once we get our hands on one and can test it out a bit, we’ll have some additional thoughts. I assume however it’s going to immediately be the best of the Android tablets.
Also today Google launched a video and music-streaming device/hub, with social features, called “Nexus Q.” It looks something like a small black bowling ball and is designed to bring together Android and Google Play with your TV and speakers. Google calls it a “social streaming media player.” And it offers competition to Apple TV, Sonos and a range of set-top boxes.
The cost of the device is $299, which may be a bit expensive given that Apple TV is $99. Again, we haven’t had an opportunity to see it up close but the user experience seems pretty compelling.
For Android users (the target audience) who buy one it begins to create a kind of “closed” ecosystem — it’s deeply and elegantly integrated with Google Play and Android devices — that erects switching barriers for users and barriers to entry for competitors. I’m sure Google would never suggest anything like this. But if you’re an Android user and you have Q then you’re going to stay with Google content and devices in all probability. Apple has been doing a version of this for years.
Google said it was going to sell these Q devices (available in July) directly from Google Play. That will give it some visibility but Google will need to get it into actual retail stores before it can expect any large scale sales to the public. Google may also have to lower the price as well.
Back to the Nexus 7. One of the really nice features of the Nexus 7 is that it will include Google Maps, with offline support. That will enable people to walk around with and use them even where there’s no connection. In that sense we may see this device become one that people use “on the street corner,” unlike most tablets — which are overwhelming used at home.