Google launches iPad rival ‘Nexus 7’


Google has launched its first own-brand tablet computer, taking on Apple, Amazon and Microsoft in an increasingly crowded and fast-growing market. The company has partnered with Taiwanese manufacturer Asus to launch the Nexus 7, a 7in tablet computer built around Google's popular Android software. Priced at $199 (£127), Google's Nexus 7 is both more affordable and physically smaller than many of its rivals. Like the Nexus 7, Amazon's Kindle Fire has a 7in screen and is priced at £127.

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Google's engineering director, Chris Yerga, said the Nexus 7 was a serious gaming device and that its small size meant it was ideal for emailing, browsing the web and downloading applications.

The Nexus 7 will be the first tablet computer to run Google's latest Jelly Bean Android software.

It has a 1.2-megapixel camera – unlike the Kindle Fire – and is available with 8GB of memory (£159) or 16GB (£199).

Microsoft has also indicated that it thinks tablets are of growing importance. Last week the software multinational announced that it would be offering its own tablet, called Surface, which will run its next Windows 8 operating system – though it offered no dates or prices for the release. Windows 8 is expected in the autumn, probably in October.

Total sales of tablet computers will reach 105m units this year and 143m in 2013, according to the research firm IDC – compared with total PC sales of about 400m, of which more than 60% will be laptops.

Apple is expected to remain the dominant player in the tablet market for the foreseeable future, with Gartner forecasting that the iPad will account for 61.4% of all sales this year.

Android tablets – which include a variety of manufacturers, including Sony and Motorola – are forecast to account for 31.9% of tablet computer sales this year.

Hugo Barra, head of Android product management, said 400m devices based on its operating system had been activated to date – up from 100m in June last year.

Carphone Warehouse has announced plans to sell Google's Nexus 7 tablet with no up-front charge on a tethered contract, once it's released in mid-July.

The retailer has announced that it will be selling the 16GB model both SIM free and for free on tethered contracts, which means customers can bundle the cost into their present smartphone contract.

Commenting on the launch, Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum said: “The tablet is an important step forward for Google’s Android tablet strategy, in that it breaks the dichotomy that exists presently between low-priced, low performance devices and over-priced, high spec devices. The Nexus 7 borrows heavily from the Amazon Kindle Fire in that it puts content front and center, but it doesn’t solve the biggest challenge for Android tablets: the lack of apps optimized for the larger screen size. At 7 inches, this problem is less acute, but it doesn’t solve the problem and Google said nothing about how it will address this problem. In addition, the price point likely benefits from some subsidy and therefore isn’t sustainable in the long term – Google still needs to solve the fundamental problem of Android tablets, which is the lack of compelling apps and content optimized for the devices.”

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