Neither the hype nor the secrecy was quite the same at Google I/O in San Francisco as it was for Apples World Wide Developers Conference or Microsofts announcement of the Surface tablet, but it was still what weve all come to expect at a tablet-related announcement these days.
This time, Google product managers teamed up to tell the world about Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and all of the reasons why it was the coolest thing for mobile devices since night baseball. Then the hardware guys took over to announce the Google Nexus 7 tablet, which by total coincidence runs Android 4.1.
Theres no question that the Nexus 7 (the 7 is supposed to be written as a superscript like this: Nexus7 but nobodys actually going to do that because its too much trouble) is a nice tablet. It has most of the right features, including an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor and a 12-core GPU. Theres an accelerometer and an electronic gyro. It does Near Field Communications, Bluetooth and dual-band WiFi. The Android interface has been redesigned so that it keeps content front and center, sort of like the Kindle Fire.
The content issues should be no surprise since its clear that this particular action in the Tablet Wars is aimed at arch-enemy Amazon, which Google apparently finds to be evil because its not also featuring Google content. But content is what the Nexus 7 is all about as the company explains on its Google Play ordering page. Priced at less than $200, the device isnt really aimed at the Apple iPad or the Microsoft Surface. But its likely that the feature-rich, low-cost device will have an impact on tablet design at those companies.
What the launch of the Nexus 7 does do is add another layer of complexity to the 7-inch tablet field. This isnt to suggest that a little complexity is a bad thing, since it also means a richer field for product selection. But there are already a LOT of 7-inch Android tablets available, along with some that dont actually run Android. So what makes the Nexus 7 important?
Perhaps the most important factor is that Google clearly intends the Nexus 7 to be a reference platform. The company bills it as being made for Google Play, and as such it is tied into the cloud-based Google content store and into Googles cloud. You can store your own content there and you can pay for downloads of video, music, books and magazines. It is first and foremost a content consumption device.
Of course, Google has taken a page from Apple and Microsoft in much of what the tablet can do. Theres a Siri-like service that answers questions in a soft female voice.