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Make it fast, cheap and good: Google's instructions to Asus for the Nexus 7

August 7, 2012

It shouldn’t really have been a surprise when Google announced that Asus would be manufacturing the Nexus 7 Android tablet. Google has shown a willingness to work with various partners in the past, choosing HTC to make the original Nexus One and then switching to Samsung for the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus. You might expect them to announce a partnership with Motorola at some point, considering the acquisition of Motorola Mobility, but for now Asus is the manufacturer of choice.

The resulting tablet offers unbeatable specs for the price. The Nexus 7 may not be an iPad killer but at $199 for the 8GB version and $249 for the 16GB model it certainly is an attractive prospect. Consumers seem to think so too with reports of strong sales.

Working with Google

Benjamin Yeh, Asus’ Head of UK and Nordic Markets, spoke to Forbes recently and revealed some interesting tidbits about how the Nexus 7 came about. Apparently the device was cooked up at CES in January and it went into mass production in May. They had just four months to design and build a lightweight, but powerful, 7-inch Android tablet that could really make the most of the software.

Yeh told Forbes “For a mass-market device, from concept to mass production, we’re talking about six to twelve months. Six months is very tight…”

Fast and cheap, is it good as well?

The challenge of coming up with the Nexus 7 in such a short timescale was clearly daunting.

Yeh says “The device had to be thin and light, with a weight under 340 grams. So to get that lightness, normally the CPU would be small [low-powered]. But to get media playback, and particularly high definition media, the processor has to be powerful. The strong CPU in a very small space is difficult. And also the screen: you want it to be very responsive and also to have multitouch. So normally the LCD should be thick.”

Yeh also spoke about the display and the unusual lamination process “The traditional way to make a tablet touchscreen actually uses four pieces of glass…..with the one glass solution, we put together the protective glass and the sensor glass. So the sensor is just a film attached to the glass, to make it thinner. And that also makes it lighter.”

You have to wonder if the reported Nexus 7 screen separation issue or the ghosting issues have something to do with the unique design process. Perhaps the rush to market resulted in a less than perfect device. Although, it is worth pointing out that neither issue is particularly serious.

It may not be perfect but you won’t get a better Android tablet for your money than the Nexus 7. For Google and Asus to produce something this desirable in such a short space of time is truly impressive.