Mobile // Mobile Devices
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1/5/2012
11:05 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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$200 Nexus Tablet Could Spell Trouble For Apple

An inexpensive Android tablet could be just what Google needs to attack Apple.

Last month, Schmidt said that Google was developing an Android tablet "of the highest quality" and that it would arrive within about six months. A report from DigiTimes on Thursday suggests that the tablet will be a Nexus-branded device, will have a seven-inch display and a $199 price point, and may arrive as early as April.

We all know how (un)reliable DigiTime's "industry sources" can be, but does the idea of an Android Nexus tablet even make sense?

Android tablets have been anything but successful over the course of the last year. At CES 2011, hardware makers debuted more than 50 Android tablets, most of which failed to reach store shelves. Those that did manage to make it to retail failed to grab a significant share of the tablet market from Apple's iPad. Android-based tablets make up a pitiful 3.3% of the entire Android ecosystem.

[ Learn more about the progress of Android 4.0. Read Android Ice Cream Sandwich Trickles Onto Phones. ]

I've test dozens Android tablets in the last year. Most of them are capable machines, though not without quirks. Take the new Motorola Xyboards being sold by Verizon Wireless, for example. Both models have good designs and an excellent set of features. But will Motorola and Verizon sell millions of them? Probably not.

The idea behind Google's Nexus concept is to offer developers a native platform for app development and the pure Google experience. We have that already in the Galaxy Nexus, and the Nexus S and Nexus One before it. According to Google's developer website, any app written to work in Android 4.0 will function equally well on smartphones with 3-inch displays and tablets with 10-inch displays. That alone seems to negate the necessity for a dedicated tablet development platform, though it still makes sense on a gut level to have a base machine for testing.

Perhaps what's most interesting about DigiTimes' report, however, is that the Nexus device will have a 7-inch screen, a $199 price point, and will target the Kindle Fire, not the Apple iPad. That's an altogether different tablet story.

Based on reports of holiday sales, devices such as the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook were popular gift items and may have stolen significant tablet sales from Apple. One of the big attractions to these media-focused devices is their lower-than-the-iPad prices. The base Kindle sells for as little as $79 and the Kindle Fire goes for $199. The least expensive iPad starts at a more daunting $499.

Google could bring a smaller tablet to market with the help of Motorola, which it is in the process of acquiring. Such a device, with a Kindle-esque price point, would be a much bigger danger to Apple's share of the tablet market than the fully-featured $800 machines being sold by HTC and others. Obviously, such a machine would also undercut Google's own hardware partners. Even if Google targets the Kindle Fire with a $199 tablet, it is still targeting Apple.

The linchpin will be the quality of the device. One of the reasons the iPad is successful is because it is a high-quality machine that delivers on its promise of mobile computing. While "high quality" and $200 would seem to be mutually exclusive in this market, stranger things have happened.

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Bay Area CA Male
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User Rank: Apprentice
1/26/2012 | 4:44:34 AM
re: $200 Nexus Tablet Could Spell Trouble For Apple
Eric, I think you are a little kooky!

The people who buy the Fire are NOT people who would ever buy an Fire...
Now that doesn't mean that nobody tipped over onto the Fire side. But if you look at Apple earnings report it will be clear that very few people made that switch.

In the words of Tim Cook, those of us who want opads WILL NOT settle for a small tablet OR a tablet from a messy plarform. Its just that simple and the numbers dint lie.
Chris Spera
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Chris Spera,
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1/6/2012 | 2:52:16 PM
re: $200 Nexus Tablet Could Spell Trouble For Apple
The reason why Apple is succeeding in the tablet market is the EXACT same reason why its succeeded in the digital music player market (and it has ZERO to do with price point) - Ecosystem. I started saying this in May of 2011 with BYTE Wireless Radio 05 with Gina Smith, Craig Johnston and Fritz Nelson.

The iOS ecosystem enables users to get content where they want it, the way they want it, when they want it and how they want it. Apple's done a great deal of work to insure that the ecosystem enables vendors to sell and consumers to consume. The problem for consumers is the downstroke to enter the ecosystem, or the cost of the device.

The Android ecosystem is very disjointed. There are almost as many different ways to acquire content as there are kinds of devices. There's little to no cohesion between smartphone A and smartphone B or tablet A and tablet B, even from the same OEM manufacturer. Once you have content on your device, there really isn't a good way to manage that content for your Android device.

A low-cost tablet is not going to make it more competitive, or make it easier for consumers to use them as they would use an iPad. This is the same tact that Amazon has taken; and even though they are really the only ones with a solid way to get and manage content on their Android powered device, they still aren't predicted to over take Apple's lead in the tablet market.

If Google wants to take a big piece of this pie for themselves, they need to create a consistent ecosystem that can be used across all Android powered devices, regardless of who the OEM is. Until then, they're going to chase after Apple and be a distant 2nd or 3rd place player in this market.
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