For many Android enthusiasts, a purebred Android tablet is the stuff of dreams. Until now, Google’s Nexus program, which showcases Android in its purest form, included three amazing smartphones, with the latest flagship in the series being the Galaxy Nexus. However, when it comes to a tablet receiving the Nexus treatment, all we got was rumors.
But there is hope. Pieces are starting to fall into place for the Nexus tablet. Last December, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told an Italian newspaper that the Mountain View-based giant would market a tablet of the “highest quality” over the next six months. Boy, we were happy!
A few weeks later, Digitimes (a Taiwanese outlet with deep connections inside the Asian manufacturing sector) fed the rumor mill by suggesting that the Google tablet will be a direct competitor to the Kindle Fire, and not to the iPad, as many have expected. The leak slates the launch of the Nexus tablet (as everyone seems to call it) sometimes in March-April. Moreover, the 7-incher would be priced at an affordable $199, just like the Kindle Fire (and now just like the 8GB Nook Tablet).
Digitimes has a mixed record when it comes to predicting upcoming products, so we all took the report with the proverbial grain of salt. But this time, the Taiwanese seem to have been on to something.
On Thursday, CNET cited industry analyst Richard Shim, who claims that the Google Nexus tablet will indeed be a 7-incher and is likely to enter fabrication in April. Other useful details include the resolution of the reported device (1280×800) and an estimated production run of 1.5-2 million units. Just for comparison, Motorola has sold about 1 million Xooms and Xyboards last year, while on the other end of the scale, Amazon moved 4 million Kindle Fires just in the last quarter of 2011.
Judging from the initial production run, Google is moderately optimistic about the performance of the upcoming Nexus tablet. Two million is a respectable figure, but not that high when you compare it to the numbers that Apple works with, or even with the initial production run of the Kindle Fire, which was four million.
Shim avoided telling if the Nexus tablet will be a premium device or something in the likes of the Kindle Fire. Eric Schmidt did announce a high-quality tablet in December, but that may have been just marketing talk.
For now, we know that the Nexus tablets is likely to have display with a resolution of 1280 x 800, which makes it better than the Kindle Fire’s 1024 x 600. Note: the Galaxy Tab 7.7 also boasts a 1280 X 800 AMOLED screen, but in a 7.7 inch factor. Needless to say, it’s unlikely that Google will opt for this particular display technology, as it would make the device prohibitively expensive, and therefore never a viable competitor to Kindle’s Fire. That being said, we just can’t judge the overall quality of a product based solely on its screen technology or resolution.
If Google wants to tackle Amazon head on, it will need to keep the price of the Nexus tablet close to the $199 psychological price floor. Although the Fire was disappointing in terms of build quality, teardowns have shown that Amazon is selling the 7-inch e-reader/tablet at a loss. Google may try the same strategy with the Nexus; after all, the search business is going gangbuster.
But we think that Google can do a better tablet than the Kindle, and keep the $199 price tag. ASUS will sell its seven inch quad-core MeMo370T for $249, soon, so at $200, we should at least get some decent specs. In addition, Google is in a better position than Amazon to reach the high-quality/low price sweet spot. Not only does Google have better collaboration with manufacturers (see the line of Nexus smartphones), but it may actually pull it off by itself.
Google has a long and fruitful history of collaborating with manufacturers such as Samsung and HTC, which both participated in the Nexus smartphone program. Google also worked extensively with Motorola to create the Xoom, which was the first tablet to run Android 3.2 Honeycomb.
The question now is this: will Google make their own tablet (via Motorola) or will it work with traditional partners? The Motorola-Google deal is coming through very soon, and rumors have already pegged Google executive Dennis Woodside as the next CEO of Big M.
In the past, Google has insisted that Motorola will be run as a separate company and that it will not be given preferential treatment or special privileges over Samsung, HTC, and other Android partners. But it’s obvious that the Motorola buyout will finally give Google significantly more control over the hardware side. It makes perfect sense for Google to release the Nexus tablet under the Motorola brand – better integration, better control, and less hassle with the partners. And, with Google having worked with Motorola before, on the Xoom tablet, it makes sense. Why would the bosses at Mountain View choose another manufacturer now, when they have all the tools they need, in their own backyard?
The bottom line: although we can’t exclude other options, we strongly believe that Google’s first Nexus tablet will also be Google’s first Motorola device.
With manufacturing starting in April, the Nexus will probably come sometimes towards the end of June. As AndroidAndMe notes, Google has moved its main household event, Google I/O, from May to late June. This would be the ideal occasion to showcase a ground-breaking product like the Nexus tablet.
A mid-year launch would also coincide with the rumored announcement of Android 5.0 Jelly Bean. Remember that Google now controls both the software and the hardware side. Who knows, it may pull an announce-and-launch event, just like Apple operates. In other words, we may actually get to taste Jelly Bean on a Nexus tablet, in as little as four months.
But again, the Jelly Bean rumor is not very reliable – all we have is one source, the same anonymous tipsters of Digitimes. Fragmentation is a major issue for Google, and a premature announcement of a new Android version may confuse (even enrage) some users. After all, ICS is still barely a faint blip on the radar – just about 1% of all Android devices run Ice Cream Sandwich. We think that Google knows that and that they’ll try to slow things down a little.
The first Nexus tablet is definitely high (first?) on our Android wish list. The perspective of getting the full Google experience (pure Android + optimized hardware) in an affordable package is extremely exciting. Just a few more months to wait…
How about you? Do you think that Google will announce Jelly Bean in June, as well? Can the Nexus derail the Kindle Fire? And what excites you the most about the Nexus tablet?