There has been a lot of tablet talk lately. And where there's tablet talk, there is sure to be someone harping on how Android tablets have fallen short of expectations time and time again. The Motorola XOOM was expected to be an iPad killer, yet it flopped harder than any other Android tablet that immediately comes to mind.
But no Android tablet to date – save for the Kindle Fire, which isn't even really an Android tablet but an Amazon tablet – has faced proper sales yet. Google estimated the total number of Android tablets in the world to be roughly 12 million, which is nothing to scoff at. But it certainly pales in comparison to Apple's 50 million iPads that have sold.
With this weeks new iPad announcement, some are saying that Google and their partner manufacturers should be wary of what the latest Apple branded tablet could mean for the future (or lack thereof, rather) of Android tablets. No, a competitor (in this case the competitor) launching a third generation tablet in a line that has squashed your own sales isn't going to sit well with many CEOs. But don't you think they would have anticipated this?
Any CEO who has been playing this game for more than a couple months saw the new iPad coming from a mile away. Many have already planned to counter Apple's latest maneuver (i.e: Galaxy Note 10.1, ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity, Lenovo IdeaTab K2, etc.). At Mobile World Congress, Android chief Andy Rubin told Nilay Patel of The Verge that "2012 is going to be the year that we double down and make sure we're winning in that space." This was on the heels of a Nexus tablet rumor that has started to spread across the Web.
The big question, though, was which OEM would do the honors of fabricating the hardware while loading it with pure stock Android? As DigiTimes explains, their sources say Google was seeking a Taiwan-based manufacturer to partner with this time around. Acer and HTC were both considered. But Acer doesn't have the "in-house R&D compatibility" Google is looking for and HTC is unwilling to "impair its brand image" by developing a low-price model. One Taiwan-based maker that has been consistent at hitting low price points without sacrificing quality, however, is ASUSTeK (more commonly just called ASUS).
The idea of Google's co-branded Nexus tablet is to target the popular Kindle Fire. While the Fire is technically an Android tablet, like I mentioned before, it's not your typical Android slab. It doesn't come equipped with Google's services and instead is simply a vehicle for all of Amazon's digital content. While competition – even between Android tablets – is good, Google sees Amazon as a threat in the tablet space. Therefore, they're targeting a $199 to $249 price point, but as Taylor Wimberly of Android and Me states, $199 seems to be the key here, as even Barnes & Noble dropped the price of the Nook Tablet to compete with Amazon.
So why would anyone want a Nexus tablet over, say, the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet?
For starters, the rumored specifications are quite impressive for such a low price point. In fact, I'm not sure how they could manufacture a tablet with these specs and not be losing money.
It costs Amazon more to manufacture the Kindle Fire than what they sell the device for. This is on the presumption that those who will buy a Fire will ultimately use Amazon's services, thus making up for the loss and likely more. But the Fire only comes with mediocre specs in comparison to other high-end tablets. It features a 7-inch (1024 by 600 pixels), 1GHz dual-core TI OMAP processor, 512MB RAM and 8GB of non-expandable storage. The Nexus tablet, according to rumors, will also be a 7-inch device with a 1280 by 800 resolution, a Tegra 3 quad-core processor and an undisclosed amount of memory and storage.
That said, aside from the possibility of much better specifications for the same price point, you will have access to Google's services – Google Maps, Play Store, etc. – out of the box. And since this will be a Nexus device, you can sleep easy knowing that you will be one of the first to receive the latest updates from Google, whereas the Kindle Fire may never see a current version of Android.
Personally, despite two very similar rumors coming from independent sources, I'm very skeptical. The rumor from DigiTimes suggests the Nexus tablet will launch in May following CTIA. However, ASUS showed off their MeMo tablet at CES this year, which isn't supposed to launch until June. According to Android and Me's sources, it was the MeMo that caught Google's eye, making them choose ASUS to be the partner OEM. If you piece the storyline together, it would mean that ASUS and Google started talking after CES, likely in mid-January, and will be launching the Nexus tablet in May, ahead of ASUSTeK's scheduled launch of an existing tablet in June, which will feature similar specifications for $50 more.
While I don't doubt that Google is shooting for a Nexus tablet and that ASUS would be the perfect candidate, something just doesn't sound right about any of this. Rest assured, I took a double-dose of salt before reading any Nexus tablet rumors. I suggest you do, too.
An ASUS-Google branded Nexus tablet featuring a WXGA display and a Tegra 3 processor for $200 sounds like an awesome deal. However, it doesn't really pique my interests at all. I bought a Kindle Fire and put an Ice Cream Sandwich ROM on it, just to test the waters. Simply put, a 7-inch tablet just isn't for me. But I'm sure it will catch the eye of a ton of Android purists looking to get their hands on a tablet for cheap.
What about you, folks? Does a Nexus tablet interest you at all? What if it's made by ASUS and comes bearing the rumored specs and price point? What will it be called? Transformer Nexus? Nexus Play (credit for this one goes to Taylor Wimberly)?