Nexus Tablet: Why It is Different from a Nexus Phone

Google Nexus Phone

In the past few days, the rumors of Google making and selling their own tablet have gained steam. The rumors also point to a Kindle Fire-like price point of $199. The instant reaction is to look at Google’s earlier attempt to sell hardware directly to consumers, the Nexus One phone. We know it was a failed experiment which Google acknowledged, by shutting down the operations.

Nexus tablet, on the other hand, is a completely different story. I have firmly believed that tablets should not be sold by the carriers. Yes, there are some options with tablets where you can get cellular broadband service, but first and foremost, a tablet should be sold like a PC. I mean, a computer store or a consumer electronics store. Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics and the like. The carriers can also hop in and sell the 3G/4G versions of the tablets like they tried selling the 3G-enabled netbooks. So, taking the sales point away from the carrier stores is a good sign. Compare this with the phone where, at least in the US, it is extremely hard to sell a phone without subsidies. Nokia tried it long time ago and failed. Even Apple briefly tried the unsubsidized route but realized people are much more sensitive to upfront price than you would think. Given that the sale of the phone is tied so much to a carrier, it does not make much sense to conduct the sale away from the carrier. Apple is clearly an exception here, like in many business processes today.

Secondly, the price. If the rumors are true and the tablet is in fact around $199, it will be a huge win. A stock Android tablet with no “skins” installed, for $199 could be an interesting device. Kindle Fire has its ecosystem to rely upon but out of the box, it does limit which Android apps can run on the device. If a Nexus tablet can run all Android apps, and additionally support Amazon media consumption (either via Amazon apps like Kindle app or via the browser for Amazon Video), it becomes a superset of the Fire, for the same price as the Fire. Yes, the current Android tablets already do all of that, I understand. However, none of them have gained any traction yet, and if Google can get behind the marketing and sales, and create a Nexus phone-style clean and crisp user experience, I think users may get interested.

In fact, if this strategy does not work, you can presumably call it the end of the road for Android tablets.

Google to Launch Nexus Tablet with Android 4.1 in 2012

Earlier this month, Eric Schmidt suggested in an interview with an Italian newspaper that Google was working on its own tablet “of the highest quality”, and that it would launch it in the next six months. That statement by Eric Schmidt could negatively affect Android tablet sales, which are quite low anyways, as consumers would rather wait for a Google branded tablet instead of buying a tablet right now.

Given its acquisition of Motorola, it is highly likely that Google will manufacture the Nexus tablet with Motorola’s help. This will probably further strain the already tenuous relationship between Google and Android device manufacturers like Samsung and HTC, whom Microsoft is trying hard to woo.

According to a report by Digitimes, Google may launch its Google Nexus tablet in the first half of 2012, and that will likely affect sales of all other Android 4.0 tablets, as Google will launch its Nexus tablet with the next version of Android – Android 4.1. It’s only logical that Google will launch its own tablet with an upgraded version of Android. However, its other device partners are likely to cry foul, as Motorola will have a significant head start to sell Nexus tablets with Android 4.1 which will launch much before they have a chance to launch their own Android 4.1 tablets, or upgrade their current tablets with Android 4.1.

It’s quite possible that Google will launch the Nexus tablet at Google I/O 2012, and probably hand it away to all attendees. That’s probably why it revamped the registration process for I/O 2012, to let only actual developers in.