This Week in Tablets: Google grinds it out with the Nexus 7 Android tablet

June 30, 2012

Sometimes, technology journalists report with passion, and sometimes they just report.

The latter was the case this past Wednesday at Google's I/O 2012 conference in downtown San Francisco when the company announced its mildly anticipated tablet, the Nexus 7

You could hear the collective yawn from blocks away. Nothing particularly shiny or new here. A high-end 7-inch 1280 x 800 IPS panel. 1GB of system memory. Android 4.1 Jellybean. And so on. 

The most striking feature was Nvidia's GeForce ultra-low power 12-core graphics processor, which sounds great until you try to get your head around how it will be utilized. Then it sounds, well, okay-ish. 

Ultimately, these are speeds and feeds, not passion points. CNN summed up Google's announcement quite succinctly: "Google's Nexus 7 tablet is iPad-like in its high-end hardware, Kindle-like in its size and price, but still Google-like (lacking) in its content offerings. 

To be fair to Google, no one expected or even hoped for anything more. This is the low-end tablet market we're talking about. It's like Internet search. It's not sexy, but low-end Android tablets are as essential to the ecosystem as the iPad. TabTimes' International Editor Doug Drinkwater voiced similar logic in his column this week, where he argues that the Nexus 7 will cause an important rift in the overall tablet market. 

For now, no one other operating system exists in this range. This is fairly consistent with Google's fairly populist themes. I know one thing for sure: We're not reaching 200 million tablet devices in consumers' and businesses' hands without Android. 

Was the Nexus 7 even the point in the first place? 

While neither many-core graphics processors nor blimps nor skydivers nor connected media devices could shine up the Nexus 7, Google did pull off the nerviest live demo I've ever seen, and I think the company did in fact accomplished its primary goal. 

That goal was not generating oohs and aaahs for the Nexus 7. In dropping the Google Glass project onto the stage–a product that won't even exist until 2014–the company showed technology evangelists something we had literally never seen before, thereby reinforcing the company's position as an innovator.  

At the very least, Google has clearly gotten the jump on just about every other company on the planet in the virtual goggles category. 

(I admit that I originally wrote the above sentence with 100% irony. I now admit that every time I reread the above sentence, and then think about how many years of science fiction I've embraced with phones/phasers, tablets, and embedded heads-up displays, the less ridiculous it sounds. Take this as you will.) 

it's nice to have a monolithic search engine business to fall back on, that's for sure. This is a good thing because, while I still believe Android tablets will sell in massive numbers, the Nexus 7 will not. Google will be fortunate if it sells ten times the 6,000 tablets Google gave away to developers at I/O. 

In the meantime, considerable scrutiny and speculation is swirling around Amazon's Kindle Fire, which may be announced as soon as July, bickering with Google notwithstanding. 

This week's loser: Research in Motion

There's really no way around it this week. RIM's double-hit announcement at the end of the week that its crucial BlackBerry 10 release would be delayed until 2013, and that up to 5,000 layoffs might be pending will certainly spell the end of the company as we currently know it.

(By the way, for an astute analysis of what went wrong at RIM, check the Wall Street Journal's Multiple Missteps Led to RIM's Fall from earlier this week.)

The runner-up for this week's loser was Adobe, which announced that it is abandoning Flash on the Android platform starting August 15. It's hard to believe, but it feels like Adobe's flagship mobile tech is rapidly heading the way of Shockwave.

This week's winner: ASUS

The company was tapped to build out Google's Nexus 7 tablet. A huge honor, and consistent with ASUS' previous reputation of building fine white-label products for electronics manufacturers. It's nice to see the company get some recognition. 

On the horizon

Microsoft has a lot more questions to answer on the Surface tablet front, such as: 

  • How much will it cost? 
  • How much will it cost Microsoft to manufacture?
  • Will third-parties still release Windows 8 tablets of their own? 
  • What's the pricing model of Office on Win8 tablets?

I'm expecting that, starting this coming week, we'll begin to see answers. 

In the meantime, one final thought on the Surface tablet and the continued concerns that Microsoft will pay for abandoning its partners: What other OS are PC makers going to bundle into their systems? 

With speculation running wild that HP decided to kill its Windows RT tablet because of Microsoft's Surface announcement, it's hard to imagine the short-term impact of Microsoft going solo on Win8 tablets being anything but good. Let's face it: The company is going to sell double the Windows 8 tablets that all the PC manufacturers in the world could possibly have sold combined in 2012. 

Finally, I hope everyone saw the news regarding TabTimes' new Tablet Leaders initiative. The project will cast a weekly spotlight on individuals and organizations who are deploying tablets in unique and/or powerful fashion in their workplace. We should see some interesting tablet usages come out of this series of stories.

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