June 28, 2012, 4:48 PM — At US$199, Google's Nexus 7 may seem like a tempting tablet, but some potential buyers and analysts say that it lacks hardware features and is a feeble attempt to energize the Android OS in a market dominated by Apple.
Google on Wednesday announced the Nexus 7, which is now available at the Google Play online store for $199 for a model with 8GB of storage and $249 for a 16GB model. The tablet, made in collaboration with Asus, has a 7-inch screen and Google's latest Android 4.1 operating system code-named Jelly Bean.
Nexus 7 joins a crowded tablet market that includes the dominant iPad and a collection of devices based on the Android OS from Samsung, Lenovo, Asus, Acer and Toshiba. Analysts have said that Google is following Apple's lead and introducing the Nexus 7 so Android OS can grow in tablets by bringing hardware, software and services closer. Google offers apps, music, books, and movies through the Google Play store, but analysts say that Nexus 7 is more a competitive threat to Amazon.com's $199 Kindle Fire tablet, which is based on Android and closely bundles services, entertainment and cloud offerings.
Calling Google's announcement "out of character," Richard Shim, senior analyst at NPD DisplaySearch, said Nexus 7 makes the search giant a competitor in the hardware space, which will continue as products roll out from Motorola Mobility, which Google acquired for $12.5 billion [B].
Google's user base is not nearly as strong as Apple or Amazon, so it will take time to build a strong customer base, said Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research, in a research note sent via email.
"Google's real tablet problem is the lack of compelling tablet-optimized apps and Google has yet to address how to motivate developers to fill the gap. Nor has Google addressed the continuing and growing fragmentation problem where few devices are updated to the current OS, because carriers and device makers don't push out the new versions or users don't take them," Gillett wrote.
The Nexus 7 displays images at a 1280-by-800 pixel resolution, and the device is 10.16 millimeters thick and weighs 317 grams. Other features include a front-facing camera and connectivity options such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC (near-field communication). The device offers battery life of up to nine hours on video playback and 300 hours of standby time.
The Nexus 7 design lacks storage and 3G/4G mobile broadband support, which makes it less useful, said Geoff Kratz, who runs technology consulting company FarWest Software in Calgary, Canada.
But he has placed an order for a Nexus 7 and plans to use it as a test platform. He already owns a 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab.