The next iteration of Google’s Android operating system, Jelly Bean, an aggressively priced 7 inch tablet from partner Asus, and a home media device which will be marketed under Google’s own brand.
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 centre, 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.
The Nexus Q home media device is on paper very similar to the Apple TV launched in 2007 – $299 for a device that streams content from the cloud and attaches to a TV and other home media devices. The problem is that the current Apple TV sells for $99 and does far more, including mirroring smartphone and tablet screens. Google’s decision to manufacturer the device in the US may turn out to be a self-defeating PR move, given that it’s the most logical reason for the inflated $299 price point. Even the Apple TV, of course, doesn’t sell very well, so there’s little hope for Google’s latest venture into the home entertainment space at three times the price.
Lastly, the new version of Android includes some good improvements including a competitor to Apple’s Siri and an innovative new service called Google Now which uses artificial intelligence to serve up information relevant to the user’s context proactively. Perhaps more importantly, Google announced that it would begin seeding a platform developer kit, or PDK, to hardware vendors several months before the platform is launched to users, which is Google’s first serious attempt to reduce both fragmentation and the long delays in getting the latest version of Android onto devices and into users’ pockets.
Overall, the event saw Google start to pick at several major issues it faces with partial solutions, but it still has significant challenges across its device portfolio which it is far from solving.
Comment by Jan Dawson, Ovum’s Chief Telecoms Analyst