Aside from Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Android tablets have enjoyed very limited success compared to Apple’s iPad, a situation Google cannot be very happy with. Even top-shelf devices like the Motorola Xyboard are destined for disappointing sales because of their high price. As a result, the company may be poised to release a tablet of its own, bypassing partner tinkering and price bloat, and focusing on the best possible Android experience on a tablet device at the best possible price.
Like the Nexus line of smartphones, a Nexus tablet would be free of UI overlays and manufacturer add-ons, offering a pure Android user experience. Google chairman Eric Schmidt has confirmed that a “tablet of the highest quality” is in the works, so the questions now are 1) will it be a Google-branded tablet, 2) when will it be released, 3) how much will it cost, and 4) what sort of tablet will it be?
1. Was Schmidt talking about a Google-branded tablet? Perhaps. It’s impossible to know for sure, but this would make sense given the company’s Nexus line of smartphones; why not extend the pure-Android model to tablets? Of course, Google isn’t a hardware maker, so the tablet would be built by a third-party for Google (maybe even Motorola which the company is currently attempting to purchase).
2. Schmidt said that this high quality tablet will come in the next six months. That was in December, so its release should come in spring 2012; that’s good, because Apple’s iPad 3 is expected to be announced in March with a release shortly thereafter.
3. Recent reports indicate that Google’s tablet, whatever it is, will be priced to compete with the Kindle Fire, which sells for $199. But Google could increase that price by 50% and still beat Apple’s entry-level price by $200 (assuming Apple keeps the same price scheme that’s existed for the iPad and iPad 2).
4. What will Google’s tablet be? Who knows? If they want to meet a $200-$300 price point, it probably won’t feature bleeding edge technology, but it may not need to. Plus, with Google’s new Music service, the company is now competing with Apple and Amazon on at least the music sales front, with more to come. And ecosystem sales will help generate revenue needed to keep up front costs down, i.e. the Kindle Fire model.
We expect this tablet to be a dual-core 7-inch model with limited onboard storage, a memory card slot for additional storage, and Wi-Fi only (with LTE and/or 3G models, perhaps). And, obliviously, any Google tablet shipping in the next few months would run Android 4.0, the best version of the Android OS to date hands-down.