Google targets Apple and Amazon in tablet wars

Google will sell its first tablet in the US from mid-July for $199 (€160), hoping to replicate its smartphone success in a hotly contested market dominated by Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Apple’s iPad.

By taking a greater role in the tablet market, Google hopes to ensure its various online services remain front-and-centre to consumers amid a changing technology landscape in which tablets by Apple and Amazon are increasingly becoming gateways to the web and web-based content such as films and music.

Google’s maiden entry into the tablet market, which will also see the advent of Microsoft’s Surface this year, could also help accelerate development of tablet-specific apps for its Android operating software — a key factor that has helped popularise Apple’s iPad, analysts say.

The Nexus 7 tablet, built by and co-branded with Taiwan’s Asus, was one of the gadgets unveiled at its annual developers’ conference, as the internet search and advertising leader dips its toe into the competitive consumer arena.

The announcement of the tablet comes a month after Google acquired its own hardware-making capabilities with the $12.5bn acquisition of smartphone maker Motorola Mobility.

However, Motorola, which Google has said it will run as a separate business, was absent from most of the new products and services showcased at the event.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin demonstrated Google Glass, a futuristic-looking eye-glass-computer that can livestream events, record, and perform computing tasks. The device will be available to US-based developers next year for $1,500.

And it also unveiled the Nexus Q — a $300 device with a built-in amplifier that lets users stream content from Android devices onto their televisions.

However, the Nexus tablet stole the spotlight. Sold initially only on the Google Play online store, its $199 price tag and 7in stature is aimed squarely at the Fire, which is not yet available in Ireland, but the Nexus has a front-facing camera while Amazon’s tablet does not.

Analysts consider the Fire a window into Amazon’s trove of online content rather than an iPad rival, given the €479 Apple asks for a device with a “retina” display that far outstrips it in terms of resolution.

Google can similarly use the Nexus 7 to connect to its own online offerings, which include YouTube and Google Play, its online store where it sells digital music, movies, and games. It will go after more cost-conscious users who might shun the pricier iPad.

“Nexus 7 is an ideal device for reading books. The form factor and weight are just right,” said Chris Yerga, Google director of engineering for Android.

Google showed off several media-centric capabilities, such as a new magazine reading app.

“They all but called it a Kindle Fire killer. They’re clearly gunning for that No. 2 spot behind Apple’s iPad that is currently occupied by Kindle,” said Altimeter Group analyst Chris Silva.

“But the con is they do not yet have a footprint in people’s minds and wallets as the go-to place to purchase and consume media.”

Google has partnered with smartphone makers to develop Nexus-banded phones for several years, providing a showcase product that delivers Google’s ideal vision for a device based on its Android software.

Extending the Nexus concept to tablets should similarly establish a model that other hardware makers can emulate, resulting in a more a competitive and uniform line of Android tablets to market, say analysts.

The Nexus will feature the new 4.1 Jelly Bean version of Google’s software, as well as a front-facing camera, a 1280x800 resolution screen, and an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor.

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