The Nexus program has always been meant to demonstrate Google’s vision for Android, by combining the best software (the latest purebred Android version) with the best hardware, to deliver the best possible user experience.
When it comes to smartphones, Google’s efforts have produced outstanding results – Galaxy Nexus and the other Nexus devices have received both critical acclaim and commercial success. So it makes perfect sense for Google to extend the Nexus program to tablets, an area where Google admitted that it didn’t fare too well. With Andy Rubin announcing that 2012 will be the year of the tablet for Android, and a slew of rumors surfacing over the past months, it seems that the Nexus tablet is finally closing to reality.
Up until now, we’ve learned that the Nexus tablet will be priced at $199, will enter production in April, and will probably be launched at Google I/O, in late June. And now, the last pieces of the puzzle are falling into place.
According to Taylor Wimberly from AndroidAndMe, Google has chosen ASUS to be the OEM for the first Nexus tablet. Now, in our recent Nexus tablet round up, we speculated that Google would choose to build the first Nexus tablet in-house, through the newly acquired Motorola. After all, Motorola built the first tablet to run Honeycomb, the original Xoom. But since we published that round up, Google representatives have been vocal about the fact that Google and Motorola will very much be separate companies.
If AndroidAndMe’s scoop is to be trusted, it will be ASUS, not Motorola, that will build the first Nexus tablet, which will be presumably called the Google Play. The clue? Google’s favorite domain privacy service, MarkMonitor has recently registered a host of domain names that are related to “Google Play”, including googleplayapps.com, booksonplay.com, and googleplaymusic.com.
Just today, we noted that ASUS’ executives are optimistic about being at the frontline of the Android 5.0 Jelly Bean rollout, and we know that Google uses the Nexus line to introduce new Android versions. Could the two news snippets be related?
Probably not. AndroidAndMe says that the Nexus tablet will ship with stock Ice Cream Sandwich. Although Digitimes suggested that Jelly Bean would come this summer, we think that it’s simply too early for Google to launch yet another version of Android. Already, fragmentation is a big issue for Google, with devices still coming out with Android 2.3 Gingerbread installed. Even with the impeding threat of the tablet-native Windows 8 coming, Google should tone down its Android release cycle. Most likely, the Nexus tablet will be an ICS device. Nevertheless, ASUS may have obtained Google’s promise to get priority access to Jelly Bean, as a “bonus” for collaborating on the Nexus tablet.
Is it possible? Can ASUS and Google deliver a quad-core tablet that costs just $199? Wimberly thinks so, noting that ASUS already has a low-cost quad-core tablet in the pipeline, the $249 Memo 370T (announced at CES and due sometime in the second quarter of this year.) According to Wimberly’s sources, the 7-inch Nexus will be similar to the Memo, but might come with less storage space, to cut costs (the same strategy used by B&N when it announced the $199 8GB Nook Tablet). The Memo will be available with two storage options – 16GB and 32GB. The Nexus tablet may come with just 8GB, but customers may be enticed with a generous amount of space on the upcoming Google Drive cloud service.
A $199 quad-core tablet would be extraordinary. If Google manages to pull this off, Android on tablets may finally gain the steam it needs to challenge the iPad’s position, at a time when success is crucial. Apple is set to release its iPad 3/HD next week, presumably coming with a 2048 X 1536 display and Siri integration. Moreover, according to a leaked Samsung memo, Apple should launch a 7-inch “iPad Mini” sometimes in Q3 2012, which would give it a foothold in the $200 tablet area, that proved so attractive to customers. If Google is to tackle the cheap tablet market, it must act before Apple makes its move.
Perhaps more importantly, a $199 tablet would undercut Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which Google clearly perceives as a threat to its business. The Kindle Fire runs Android, but it’s Jeff Bezos’ Android, completely outside of Google’s control. So a successful $199 Nexus tablet would be a heavy blow to both Apple and Amazon. For Google, the move seems to be ideal, both strategically and tactically, even if there will be no immediate profit coming out of it.
Do you think it’s possible? Can Google deliver the “highest quality” tablet that Eric Schmidt promised last year? Will we get the full Android experience on an amazing $199 quad-core tablet?