Google Nexus 7 Takes Aim at Amazon Kindle, All 7-Inch Tablets

NEWS ANALYSIS: The Asus-built Nexus 7 will run Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, representing the next skirmish in the June Tablet Wars—this time focusing on the 7-inch screen size market segment led by the Amazon Kindle.

Neither the hype nor the secrecy was quite the same at Google I/O in San Francisco as it was for Apple€™s World Wide Developers Conference or Microsoft€™s announcement of the Surface tablet, but it was still what we€™ve 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.

There€™s no question that the Nexus 7 (the 7 is supposed to be written as a superscript like this: Nexus7 but nobody€™s actually going to do that because it€™s 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. There€™s 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 it€™s clear that this particular action in the Tablet Wars is aimed at arch-enemy Amazon, which Google apparently finds to be evil because it€™s 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 isn€™t really aimed at the Apple iPad or the Microsoft Surface. But it€™s 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 isn€™t 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 don€™t 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 Google€™s 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. There€™s a Siri-like service that answers questions in a soft female voice.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...