Google reveals the expected (new Nexus 7) and the unexpected (Chromecast)

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The good ship Google was leaking like a sieve in the run-up to yesterday's 'Breakfast with Sundar' event, and for the most part the leaks were spot on...at least in terms of tablets.

As anticipated, Google unveiled a new Nexus 7. This year's model is thinner, lighter and faster than last year's, but also slightly more expensive (the 16 GB model is $230). It also has an impressive screen resolution of 1920 x 1200 (323 PPI, which Google claims is the highest PPI of any tablet on the market). Powering the tablet is a 1.5 Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro with Adreno 320 graphics.

The new Nexus 7 arrives at retailers and on Google Play on July 30th (pre-orders are open at some retailers already and by the time you read this, probably on Play as well). If 16 GB cramps your style, a 32 GB model is $270 and a 32 GB LTE model is $349.

In addition to new hardware, the 2013 Nexus 7 ships with Android 4.3, though this point upgrade is fairly minor. It adds 'restricted profiles' (think parental controls), support for OpenGL ES 3.0 which Google's Hugo Barra says is big news for game developers, and Bluetooth Smart technology (think lower power consumption). Additionally Netflix announced 1080P support for the new Nexus 7 and Android 4.3, and promised this support will come to other phones and tablets later this year.

Android 4.3 should also be rolling out via OTA update on the original Nexus 7 as well as the Nexus 4, Nexus 10 and Galaxy Nexus, so keep an eye out for that.

Google's other big announcement was Chromecast, a $35 HDMI dongle that supports media streaming. The idea is that you plug the Chromecast into an HDMI port, power it via a USB port or A/C adapter, and then use your smartphone, tablet (Android or iOS, no Windows Phone 8 support yet) or a computer running Chrome, to control it.

Out of the gate it supports Netflix, Google Play, and YouTube, but expect more services to follow. The $35 price includes 3 free months of Netflix and I was suprised to learn you can apply it to a pre-existing Netflix account (usually deals like this are limited to new customers).

People seem excited by Chromecast but I've got one concern; is Chromecast a sign that Google is throwing in the towel on Google TV?

I'm also curious that Chromecast apparently can't draw power from MHL compliant HDMI ports, but instead requires a 'patch' cable between one of your TV's USB ports and a USB port on the Chromecast dongle, or just the use of an A/C adapter.

The Chromecast will control your TV if it's a relatively recent model with HDMI CEC support. So in theory, by tapping an icon on your tablet you can turn on your TV, switch to the correct input and start streaming Netflix.

Of course since I'm a Netflix member, that 3 months of service is worth $24 or so, meaning the Chromecast only costs me $11 (that's gadget freak economics). I need another device to stream stuff to my TV like I need another hole in my head, but Chromecast is so cheap I just couldn't resist it. Unfortunately by the time I decided to pre-order my ship date had slipped to August 11th (an hour earlier it had been August 2nd), but whenever it arrives I'll do a hands-on.

Oh, and if you're a developer you might be interested in the SDK.

So Android fans, are you on-board for either of these products?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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