They thought the threat would come from Motorola. Bought for $12.5bn, Google had acquired a hardware giant yet claimed the deal was purely for patents. Nine months later the deal was concluded and within five weeks Google launched a high spec, budget tablet sold at cost and with a four month period of exclusivity for its latest Android 4.1 operating system. Everything Android partners feared had come true, except for the fact the tablet was made by Asus…
Unlike Google's previous Nexus smartphones, the 'Nexus 7' tablet isn't a concept or a guide. It is a ruthlessly priced land grab, a housecleaning exercise designed to eradicate smaller, less significant partners who have up to now produced bargain basement, low quality hardware which has given Android tablets a bad name.
Interestingly the move was not the realisation of a carefully worked master plan – it was an act of desperation. "We went from zero to working product in four months," admits Google's head of Android, Andy Rubin. " The exec had previously admitted Android tablet sales were "less than I'd expect them to be if you really want to win" and that the key is app support. "I can't force someone to write a tablet app," he said, "[developers are] looking at market share and... being frugal."
The Nexus 7 is Google's answer to the problem of market share. It demanded a high end 7in tablet which must not cost over $200 and set Asus to work. "Our engineers told me it is like torture," said Asus' chairman Jonney Shih. "They [Google] ask a lot." The kickback for Asus is Google will absorb all marketing costs. How will partners compete? There is "plenty of room left for Android tablet innovation" Rubin told All Things D.
This is a somewhat hollow answer to a move which will cripple a large number of partners. As we commented in our recent reviews of the £150 Disgo Tablet 8104 and £180 9104, the Nexus 7 has effectively rendered them obsolete. With the iPad flourishing and Windows 8 RT on the horizon Google clearly decided such casualties of war were more desirable than continued stagnation and fragmentation. High Nexus 7 sales will attract punters and subsequently developers, all the while substantially raising the bar for all tablet makers to a do or die level.