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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

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CNET Editor

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon

Loud and Clear

Is Nexus enough to hold off the Windows 8 tabs?

(Credit: Google)

After what seems like years in the making, Google has finally unveiled its own Android-powered tablet. But with just months before Microsoft's Windows 8 Surface enters the tablet market, we wonder whether the Nexus 7 is enough.

We're sure we're not alone in this thinking, Google seems to be wondering the same thing. Its AU$249 price tag is a bargain bin price for a new device with the latest hardware. A scan across the various electronics stores in Australia shows how dramatically Google is undercutting the competition; even Toshiba's 7-inch tablet, with last year's components, still demands a AU$400 price at retailers like JB HiFi — Samsung's 7-inch tablet is twice the price. What is Google saying with its pricing? That it feels it can't compete? Or that it doesn't have the functionality to charge a premium?

Google's reveal, at its I/O developers conference, spoke volumes of the place it imagines an Android tablet plays in the mobile computing landscape. Google's Hugo Barra demonstrated the features of the new 7-inch tablet at the event, and went into great detail about the multimedia abilities of the tablet, about its tight integration with the Play Store and its chops as an eBook reader and cinema screen.

The term "one-trick pony" wouldn't be fair in this context, but focusing on a single purpose, if not a single task, reminds us of some of yesterday's favourite gadgets. Everyone loved the Sony Walkman until Apple made the iPod, which, in turn, lost favour when smartphones played music — and made calls, browsed maps, fetched email and surfed the web.

Conversely, Microsoft's Surface demonstration, a fortnight ago, told a very different story about devices in the same broad tech category. The Surface tablets have a big screen, media players and Microsoft-owned media services to plug into — but the emphasis was on productivity. Fans of the Microsoft tablets are still talking about the ingenious design of the new keyboard screen covers, and tossing up whether the market will lean towards the Windows 8 Pro model, with its Core i5 Intel processor, or will it choose a flashy new ultrabook instead.

As for pricing, the new Microsoft tablets will be priced like computers, and though no firm prices have been revealed, many expect the Surface tablets to cost in excess of AU$1000 each, both the Tegra and Intel processor options. Much more than Apple's popular iPad and light-years more than Google's new Nexus.

These three tablet options will go a long way to answering a question the best in our industry are still struggling to find an answer for. What in the world is a tablet computer? Is it a PC companion? Is it the sort of device that you use on the move, between better, more powerful machines? If so, Google's Nexus 7 should sell like hotcakes.

Or is a tablet a computer, in its own right? Should someone buying a tablet expect it to behave like the machines at their office and in their studies? Will people pay more to make sure their tablets can do more than play games and read books?

I certainly don't have the answers. My gut feeling is that Android tablets will struggle from here on, as Windows 8 tablets get cheaper and cheaper. Microsoft's Surface might be expensive, but the ASUS, Acer and Samsung versions will need to be increasingly competitive. People who use these machines will demand more from the tablet experience, and Android (and the iPad, to lesser extent) will need to adapt, or go the way of the Dodo, the Walkman, and the Zune.

Add Your Comment 5

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AnimusT posted a comment   

i can't install this app:
on windows . someone can help?


hionin posted a comment   

Is that headline serious?

With the Nexus 7 releasing next week in Australia and Apple and Samsung putting excellent products out there for the last couple of years, I'd say Microsoft has missed the boat.....again (think Win7 cell phone). What's happened to Microsoft that it's on the back foot all the time now? They seem to have been devolving since the turn of the century. I think their testing of the waters last month with the Surface (dopey name) was desperate and ill-considered. At this stage, if Microsoft want to keep their credibility, then they should keep their mouths shut until they have a product to release - not embarrass themselves with a product that stuttered at first intro, and giving no hard details on essentials like price or release date.
I'd love a Windows Tablet with real grunt and a 'proper', not an 'abbreviated mobile' OS, but I have no confidence at this stage that Microsoft is the company to make it real.


JoffreA posted a comment   

I am very suspicios on the Microsoft surface not to be a hater but why did they do a rush presentation and then they didn't let any tech journalist or bloggers to road test them for hands on demos, all the YouTube videos you see the journalist is about a meter away pointing out all the features and I'll tell you why because is not finished its hf baked , they knew we were going to be destracted by the keyboard. Honestly why on earth would you buy a surface ist it's going to be priced like a laptop what for the keyboard cover, you might as well buy a proper laptop that comes with a keyboard, Microsoft has to walk a fine line here in pricing and iron out any bugs in the surface because in the tablet world first impressions matter.


Will1505 posted a comment   

If android tablets are going to be at a third of the price of windows tablets, there will be a market for them. If the tablets ran on Chrome OS and had full access to the android market, they would still have a productivity factor to them


Im Batman posted a comment   

Yeah the focus of each product is really different.
Nexus 7 is a consumption fcus device, with the homescreen going straight to your Google Play content.
The intent of the device is almost to change peoples mindset about where they get their content from and to make them think of Google Play as their default go to place.
Content like this was never their focus but they are developing their business model to make it.

As you rightly pointed out, Microsoft are wanting the surface to be a productivity tool, i would almost say that the surface is a "laptop" with enhanced portability than a tablet, but that is probably due to the productivity skew.

Android tablets have a really tough battle, especially now against the surface.The Nexus 7 is suppoed to represent "best of google" and its doing that by focusing on its content.

The Nexus 7 is an ideal home companion for when you are consuming stuff and google is probably okay with that as they are putting a strong focus on the living room and home.
The Nexus 7 can then become the central controller to all of this.

With google is not showing off any productivity intent in their reference tablet then the OEMs may see more value in supporting Window 8 tablets.
But then again, googles purchase of Quickoffice (or similar) and with its eventual incorporation into Google Docs/drive this will make a more compelling productivity tool... but it may be too late.

The Nexus 7, at that price point is great for a at home media consuming/controlling device.

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