With the tablet market still being dominated by Apple and its iPad, Android continues to have trouble gaining consumer attention, as evidenced by the weak tablet sales to date. However, over the past couple of weeks, there have been many rumours surrounding a mystery “Nexus tablet”: a Google-branded slate that runs much like the Nexus line of phones. Could this spell an end to Apple’s monopoly?
The 7″ Powerhouse?
Android tablets have been anything but blockbuster products over the past two years, mainly due to Apple’s competition. When the first “real” iPad competitors started emerging around CES 2011, they were aimed squarely at trying to destroy Apple’s dominance (hence the 10″ screens). However, they failed due to high prices, as well as a lack of apps at launch.
But the rumors of a Nexus tablet quote a seven-inch screen size, the same as the moderately successful Kindle Fire. If true, then it looks like Google is attempting to set a precedent for Android tablet makers by shifting Android’s focus from ten inches to seven. This is a smart move, which could end in both Android and iOS peacefully coexisting, satisfying different portions of the market. (Editor’s note: Until Apple release a 7″ iPad Mini…)
By launching a seven-inch tablet, Google would be competing with Amazon, not Apple. Although it’s been seemingly popular, the Kindle Fire has yet to gain real traction amongst consumers, leaving this portion of the market open for Google to launch into.
The Kindle Fire has been fairly successful, mainly due to it's low price. Image courtesy of Engadget
The Nexus Experience
One of the reasons the Nexus tablet has a chance to be successful is because it will likely offer the pure Android experience, without any of the custom theming or bloatware that third parties introduce. For example, the Kindle Fire runs a heavily-modified version of Android 2.2, while one would assume that the Nexus tablet would run stock Ice Cream Sandwich, like the Galaxy Nexus.
I believe that one of the biggest reasons for iPad’s success is its simple ecosystem and single store that works with a range of products. Although there are many different ways of getting content on your iPad, the first place many users will head to will be iTunes, where content is natively downloaded to their device and easily synced/downloaded to their iPhone, iPod, Mac or PC.
If Google starts to build up a more central ecosystem of products (with the Galaxy Nexus being device number one), their own services will become a lot more favourable to consumers due to the consolidated nature. I’ve praised the Amazon Kindle Fire for the same reason, and that’s why Amazon has a great opportunity to launch a phone themselves.
The Galaxy Nexus has been well received by critics
The $200 Price
However, even with a better customer experience, a similarly-priced Nexus Tablet would always be behind the iPad. Whatever anyone says, Apple’s brand is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped and will continue to command the majority attention of the general public. How could Google possibly compete with Apple?
We are all looking at the idea of a Nexus tablet from a technology perspective so features like power and ecosystems alter our opinion. For the general public, however, price is a much more important metric and targeting a market looking to spend less will get Google some significant attention. I can’t see a $200 tablet turning many people away from the iPad, but I can see it bringing interest to markets who didn’t want to spend $500 on a tablet in the first place.
Will It Succeed?
The term “iPad killer” has been tossed around ever since Steve Jobs unveiled Apple’s first tablet two years ago in January 2010. In my opinion, that’s the completely wrong way of looking at the situation because Apple has much the same standing with the iPad as they do with the iPod. So while I can’t see a Nexus tablet taking the lead away from Apple, I can most certainly see it becoming #2.
In conclusion, I do not think the Nexus tablet will be a competitor to the iPad. I think Android manufacturers have learned their lesson and are now investigating the smaller tablet market, which will bring new consumers to the tablet market, without taking them away from Apple. If Google sets an example, other makers will follow them by creating 7″ devices, letting iOS and Android peacefully coexist.