Google takes on Kindle Fire, leaves iPad alone with its $199 Nexus 7 tablet
The rumors have finally come true. Google has indeed launched the Nexus 7 tablet, which runs on stock Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and is the first Android tablet to get the Nexus branding. Starting from $199, the Asus-built tablet has top-of-the-line hardware specifications with the latest Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core chipset, a sharp 1280×840 7-inch IPS display, a front-facing 1.2 megapixel camera, NFC, Wi-Fi and the works.
Google has managed to keep the cost down as tablets with similar specs normally cost twice of the Nexus 7′s price. It will initially retail in the US, Canada and UK via Google’s own Play Store, though there isn’t much clarity at the moment whether it will come to brick and mortar retailers and whether it will be priced the same. However, the bigger question is whether the Nexus 7 has enough in it to challenge current top-selling tablets like the Apple iPad and Amazon’s Kindle Fire? Read on for my thoughts.
Considering I have not used the Nexus 7 or even seen one yet, I’d stay away from passing any judgements on the hardware. However from what ever I have read since last night written by people who have seen one, the hardware quality does seem pretty impressive for a $199 tablet. However, Google is not really fighting the battle to remain relevant in the tablet space by touting its hardware alone. Rather it is going for the classic “giving the complete user experience” sales pitch for which it needed the best hardware it could get its hands on.
From whatever I saw during last night’s keynote session, the Nexus 7 is basically a display window to Google Play, the search giant’s content store. Google has beefed Google Play with movies and TV shows that users can rent or buy apart from music, magazines and books. Notice how all these elements get prominently displayed on the homescreen dockbar. This is clearly Google’s attempt to take on the Amazon Kindle Fire, which makes a similar sales pitch but also has the first mover advantage. Coincidentally, the Kindle Fire also runs on Android, albeit a forked version that does not have Google’s suite of applications as well as the app store. Amazon also has the ability to unlink content from the platform – users can access books on Kindles, tablets and smartphones running Android, iOS or Windows, as well as any desktop or laptop.
Where the Nexus 7 announcement really disappoints is the fact that Google is not yet looking at encouraging developers to create customized apps for tablets that utilize the larger display on offer. And this is where Apple’s iPad scores over the Nexus 7 by promising over 225,000 apps made specifically for the iPad. This makes the iPad relevant even in markets where its iTunes Store is not available. This would limit the Nexus 7′s relevance in most countries to the fact that it will get Android updates first. Well, to be honest, we don’t even know if the Nexus 7 would be widely available for $199 in countries where Google Play does not offer content beyond apps.
Having said that, the Nexus 7 in all likelihood will be a popular tablet for first-time tablet buyers. At $199, it certainly is quite irresistible. But will it make those looking at buying an iPad think twice and buy the Nexus 7 instead? Probably not.
The Nexus 7 would also challenge other Android hardware vendors to bring down prices but will they follow suit and take a hit on their margins is a different question all together.
In my view, a Nexus tablet upgrade will be an annual feature for Google from now as it has lost confidence in its OEM partners’ capabilities to keep Android relevant in the tablet space unlike what they have managed to do with Android smartphones. Only Google can do something to keep its hopes alive without thinking much about keeping the margins high while selling hardware. After all, it makes money by selling ads that are delivered by these tablets and smartphone, and not by selling hardware.