Google Rolls Out Android Jelly Bean, Nexus 7 Tablet, Nexus Q Media Hub

At its Google I/O developer conference, Google unveiled new features in Android 4.1, showed off a Nexus 7 tablet geared toward media play and introduced an entirely new product, the Nexus Q home media hub.

Google wowed application developers at its Google I/O conference in San Francisco June 27 by introducing what it called an entirely new consumer electronics product, Nexus Q, a small bowling-ball-shaped media hub for the home controlled by an Android tablet or smartphone.

Nexus Q was a surprise announcement that followed anticipated introductions of the Nexus 7 tablet, to be manufactured by Asus, and multiple improvements to the Android 4.1 operating system, dubbed Jelly Bean, the successor to Android 4.0, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich.

Enhancements to Jelly Bean include improved performance, added search capabilities, a more flexible way to arrange application icons on the home screen, voice typing that can be done offline and an improved notifications interface that lets users respond to calendar reminders, emails and texts without having to open each of those applications.

Both the Nexus 7 and Nexus Q are media-focused, offering users access to TV shows, movies, magazines and other content through Google Play, the company€™s online media store.

€œNexus Q is a small Android-powered computer that€™s designed to live in your home,€ said Android engineer Joe Britt. He said Nexus Q will connect to a home entertainment center€™s TV and speakers and goes to the cloud to deliver content acquired from Google Play. Google will sell for $299, is taking preorders now through Google Play and will begin shipping the device in mid-July.

The device can be controlled by an Android smartphone or tablet, but the content is not streamed through those devices, but from the cloud through the Nexus Q to the home entertainment system. Around the equator, if you will, of the ball is a tiny LED band that pulses along with the music being played.

The Nexus Q unveiling followed the introduction of the Nexus 7, a 7-inch screen tablet that will come with Jelly Bean installed. It will be powered by a Tegra 3 chipset from Nvidia, will deliver 16-core processing capabilities and features a battery that lasts for up to nine hours playing video, said Hugo Barra, director of Android product management at Google. It also will be available in mid-July at a list price of $199, including a $25 credit for buying content from Google Play.

The conference is intended to give developers training to create software applications that will be optimized to run in Android 4.1. Google I/O, which runs June 27 to 29, caps a trifecta of developer events in San Francisco for the three most competitive mobile operating systems in the business, following the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference from June 11 to 15, where details of the new Apple iOS 6 were revealed, and the Microsoft Windows Phone Summit on June 20, where details of the coming Windows Phone 8 OS were discussed.