Samsung has built a range of Android tablets: the 5-inch Galaxy Note, and the 7, 8+ and 10.1-inch Galaxy Tabs. Almost none of them have succeeded save the 7-inch version, which has sold modestly well mostly in Europe. In the end, however, there will be two tablet sizes: 7-inch and roughly 10-inch versions.
Apple owns the larger category and until last week Amazon’s Kindle Fire dominated the smaller category. But with the release of the Nexus 7 at the Google developer conference, Mountain View now “owns” the 7-inch category.
The NY Times’ gadget reviewer in chief David Pogue loves the Nexus 7 and says it rivals the iPad. That’s not exactly accurate but it is a great, affordable 7-inch tablet and it beats the pants off Kindle Fire, which is quite lame by comparison — outside of the Amazon content features.
The best way to think about the Nexus 7 is as a giant smartphone without the phone part. In that context Nexus 7 is terrific. But as a direct iPad rival it’s still not as good in a variety of ways. It is more portable, however, and about half the price.
The comparably priced Amazon Kindle Fire may see its sales fall off a cliff unless the company releases a much improved 2.0 device, which is reportedly coming as early as August. I would be quite surprised if its overall performance measured up to the Nexus 7 however.
The Nexus 7 is good enough and cheap enough to potentially cut into sales of the iPad for those who are more price sensitive or want a more portable tablet device. According to several sources that concerns Apple enough that the company is apparently preparing a smaller tablet — an iPad Nano or iPad Mini — for launch later this year. Assuming reports are accurate it will almost certainly cost $199 at the entry level.
The Wall Street Journal appears to confirm the long-existing Apple Mini rumors:
Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) component suppliers in Asia are preparing for mass production in September of a new tablet computer with a smaller screen, people familiar with the situation said, suggesting that the Cupertino, Calif., company is close to launching a smaller tablet.
Two of the people said that the new tablet will likely come with a screen smaller than 8 inches . . .
Officials at Apple’s component suppliers, who declined to be named, said this week that Apple has told them to prepare for mass production of the smaller tablet. One person said that Apple is working with screen makers including LG Display Co. (034220.SE) of South Korea and Taiwan-based AU Optronics Co.
The arrival of a 7-inch iPad, together with a very solid 7-inch Google tablet, might mean that people start to use tablets “on the go” vs. the current iPad, which is mostly used at home because of its size. Alternatively we could see these smaller tablets used in lieu of smartphones in the home in many instances (that’s what I’m doing). We’ll have to wait and see.
The emergence the Nexus 7, the first genuinely “good” smaller tablet, and the potential iPad Mini likely means that the smaller-tablet category will probably “stick.” Accordingly we’re then likely to see a spectrum of non-PC devices: smartphones of various screen sizes up to 5 inches, together with 7 and 10-inch tablets.
All of this should create more complexity and headaches for marketers and brands.