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Google Wednesday announced the Nexus 7, a new Android 4.1 Jelly Bean tablet that doesn't strive to be the best tablet in the market. Rather than target market champ Apple and its iPad, the low price and content store tie-ins make the Nexus 7 a Kindle killer.
The specs of the device were more or less leaked in their entirety ahead of its debut at Google I/O in San Francisco on Wednesday. It has a 7-inch display with 1280 x 800 resolution, making it an ideal HD video player. It is powered by a quad-core Tegra 3 processor. But Google surprised attendees of during the introduction by revealing that it also has 12 graphic processing cores. This makes the Nexus 7, in effect, a 16-core device, which Google says makes it a killer gaming machine.
It has Wi-Fi, but no 3G; it has a user-facing, 1.3-megapixel camera, but no heavy duty shooter for actual photography; it has 8 GB or 16 GB of storage, but that can't be expanded with microSD cards. It includes HDMI out for passing video to a television, as well as a standard headphone jack and USB port.
The device will be the first to ship with the new Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system, and will also be the first to include Google's Chrome browser out of the box. The two models will cost $199 and $249 for the 8-GB and 16-GB versions, respectively.
[ The tech giants are fighting for turf and market share. Read Apple's War Against Google: Time For New Tactics. ]
Though the device may be somewhat ho-hum in the specs department (and, to be honest, in its overall design, too), the hardware isn't the real story with the Nexus 7. Not at all.
The big story is the Google Play Store.
Google has revitalized the Google Play store with more content and other goodies. First, the Play Store has added the ability to buy movies and television programs. (Previously, video content could only be rented.) The new capability means that consumers have yet another option when it comes to buying digital goods. Movies, individual television episodes, and complete seasons are available at prices that are inline with other online contents.
The Google Play Store also now supports magazine purchases and subscriptions. Users can buy individual issues or subscribe to monthly delivery of digital mags.
These changes, when added to the existing availability of music and app content from the Google Play Store, put Google in more direct competition with Amazon's own content offerings and the Kindle Fire--Amazon's $199 book-, music-, and video-consuming tablet.
The good news here is that Google knows what it is up against. It has a handle on the fact that the Nexus 7 isn't an iPad killer. Instead, it is meant to serve as a cheap hardware platform from which Android fans can purchase Google's digital goods.
Can the Nexus 7 be a contender?
It has potential, no doubt. The price will certainly help it compete against the Kindle Fire, but Google's content store still needs to show some growth. Reports have suggested that Google isn't happy with the uptake of its music store, which cost Google a lot of money to license from the music labels. Its selection of tracks, albums, and movies pales next to what Amazon and Apple offer. The store is reasonably well-designed, but before today lacked key features (video purchasing).
As long as the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean interface isn't a disaster to use on the small-ish tablet, the Nexus 7 could put a dent in e-reader sales this holiday season.
It goes on sale in July, and can be ordered directly from the Google Play Store.
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