Google, Asus Partnering on 7-Inch Tablet: Report

Following its acquisition of Motorola Mobility, Google is working on a 7-inch Android tablet, according to a DigiTimes report.

Now that search behemoth Google is officially in the hardware business, rumors of a 7-inch Android tablet are kicking up again, this time from the stalwart rumor-monger DigiTimes. The Taiwanese tech publication causes geek hearts to flutter with reports from unnamed sources €œin the supply chain€ of any number of gadgets, from updated iPhones to tablets built in collaboration with Asus, like their most recent report.

Google and Asus are reportedly working on a 7-inch tablet for release in July, with an initial shipment of 600,000 units starting in June. €œGoogle originally planned to release its entry-level 7-inch tablet PC in May, but design and costs did not reach its expectations, and the product was delayed to July for some minor adjustments,€ the report said. €œThe 7-inch tablet PC is expected to achieve total shipments of 2 to 2.5 million units in 2012.€

Rumors of a Google co-branded tablet are not particularly new. Way back in December, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt let slip to the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera that the company was planning to directly manufacture tablet devices €œof the highest quality€ and mentioned a six-month window for production.

The tablet would certainly run on the latest version of Google€™s open-source Android operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0, or the upcoming operating system, "Jelly Bean." The company€™s recent $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility€”approved by the U.S. Justice Department in February and completed just this week€”paves the way for Google to start building that technology into its own tablets. Google has named Dennis Woodside, a longtime Google employee, as the new CEO of Motorola Mobility.

Despite numerous competitors, Apple maintains its dominance of the tablet market, which it helped revive with the introduction of the iPad in April 2010. A recent report from IT research firm IDC said that in the first quarter, Apple€™s share of unit shipments rose to 68 percent, while sales of Android-based devices fell. Since the iPad€™s launch, Apple has released two updates of the device, the latest being the new iPad, which hit the market this year with a high-definition Retina display and improved processing power. The company is also rumored to be releasing a 7-inch version of the iPad, a so-called €œiPad Mini€ with a price point below $300.

Although industry analysts doubt Apple will actually release the product, a survey by Pricegrabber found that more than half (52 percent) of respondents would consider purchasing an iPad Mini for approximately $250 to $300, with a lower price and smaller size being the two most-anticipated features. How this would affect Google€™s plans to gain traction in the tablet market is undetermined.