Google Nexus 7 Launched as Entry-Level Android Tablet

Google has finally launched its own tablet computer. But, unlike the recently-announced Microsoft Surface, Google’s tablet offering won’t compete directly with the Apple iPad. Instead, it seems to be targeting a different market.

Google's Cheryl Pon shows off the new Google Nexus 7 tablet at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco, Wednesday, June 27, 2012. The Nexus 7 will ship in mid-July starting at $199 — the same price as the Kindle Fire. By contrast, iPads start at $499. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

The Nexus 7 is a seven-inch tablet for release mid-July, Google announced at its I/O developers conference in San Francisco. The tablet will be priced at about US$ 199, which positions it directly against entry-level Android devices like the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Color.

While Google has commissioned Samsung to manufacture its latest Galaxy Nexus flagship smartphone, the tablet will be built by Taiwanese computer maker Asus. The Nexus 7 comes with a quad-core CPU, 12-core graphics processing unit, and will run Google’s latest version of Android, dubbed “Jelly Bean.”

The Nexus 7 will also be the first Android device to feature Google Chrome as its default web browser. As with other flagship “Nexus” devices, Google promises to directly support the tablet in terms of Android upgrades. In contrast, most Android smartphone and tablet upgrades have to go through carriers and mobile manufacturers first.

Here’s where the Nexus line shines. While there are a handful of Android tablets and a multitude of Android smartphones in the market, these don’t often get the latest Android updates on time. This can be attributed to carriers’ reluctance to offer upgrades, to encourage smartphone buyers to renew contracts and sign up for phone upgrades.

However, some observers note some design quirks. The Nexus 7 will have a front-facing camera, and not a rear-facing one. Google believes that a tablet’s camera should be for  social interaction, and not mainly for taking pictures.

Project Glass

Aside from the Nexus 7 announcement, Google also introduced its Project Glass to conference participants. Co-founder Sergey Brin showcased this combination of eyeglasses, camera, audio and heads-up projection system, and highlighted the different applications and possibilities. Developers were given the chance to purchase a prototype for US$ 1,500, after a brief demonstration of Glass’ capabilities by a team of skydivers.

Meanwhile, Google — or at least its mobile platform Android — is not without its difficulties. Apple has recently scored a legal victory against Samsung, with a U.S. district judge issuing an injunction against the sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the country. While there is still no clear competitor to the Apple iPad in the premium tablet market, Google may have just upped the ante in the 7-inch low-priced tablet market with its Nexus 7.