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Nexus 7 Begins Google's Ruthless Partner Cull

This may sound like a huge gamble and it is, but Google is also following a trend. Intel has spent the last 18 months pushing the Ultrabook platform – a design and price concept – upon its hardware partners. Microsoft has spent the last two years enforcing a strict and constantly evolving minimum hardware spec upon Windows Phone handset makers and it has now gone a step further building its own Surface Tablet in secret.

Meanwhile Apple cut out partners many years ago, believing only it is capable of delivering optimum hardware and software combinations. The trust in hardware builders to correctly package these companies' products has evaporated completely.

What now drives Microsoft, Apple, Intel and now Google is polish. In Google's case it is perfectly illustrated by 'Project Butter', the new 60fps core animations at the forefront of Jelly Bean which guarantee a high quality user experience which can only be executed through attaining tighter control of the tablets themselves. Such is its right, but compared to Intel and Microsoft (minimum specs) and Apple (exclusion), Google's triple whammy of secrecy, pricing and a lead time on its next generation software is arguably the hardest for partners of a supposedly 'open' platform to bear.

Of course this isn't quite true. Google has made an exception to Jelly Bean's Nexus 7 four month lock down. In its own keynote at Google I/O last month it said Motorola's relatively old line of Xoom tablets would be updated sometime in July. We await further details.

"Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google's patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies," said Google CEO Larry Page in an official statement at the time of the Motorola purchase. It seems increasingly important that the word 'partners' was omitted. Google appears to have a taste for hardware now so perhaps the long term threat to Android phone and tablet makers really does come from Google's $12.5bn 'patents purchase' after all…


July 5, 2012, 7:35 pm

Good little article, I agree with. I'm just amazed how slowly Apple's competitors have been in reacting to the obvious notion that the market wants value added, high quality (user upgradable, in future) hardware, coupled with deeply integrated, well supported and intuitive software.

An iPad & iPhone iOS - Nexus Android - Surface W8+ future, with superb quality, competing hardware is very encouraging. Apple have shown the software business model works, people pay good money for good software. Android is playing catch up and Microsoft, well, that's anyone's guess - they are their own worse enemy.

Although the Nexus 7 is a land grab for an expanded Google Play market, it does also show that high quality products can be produced on a budget and developed & launched to market on a very short lead time. And although i'm sure profit margins on the hardware are reportedly tight - they are still making a profit on the hardware, much bigger profits will follow in the purchasing of Play apps. (Printer - Ink model).

I will be surprised if Apple don't start to see their ability to charge huge premiums for their mobile products, beginning to dissolve in coming years as the competition gets its act together, in which case, it will need a modified business model to the current approach. As Gordon says, Google getting rid of the 'lower end' partners is a good start in adding polish & perceived value to the brand - as long as the products are high quality and well supported.

Of course, this move will also begin to help bring under control the 'fragmentation' effect suffered by the many android products on the market. Long over due!

Daniel Gerson

July 5, 2012, 9:51 pm

Really great article Gordon! You nailed it, and I learned something new.
(which often doesn't happen).
Loved the opening paragraph bait and switch.


July 6, 2012, 5:26 am

What you say is true but misses the biggest reason Google did this: the Kindle Fire.

Google makes no money directly from Android; it makes its money from Google Play.

Amazon threatened that model by using Android but integrating its own store.

Google had to close that down, which it has now done very thoroughly, at least for now. However Amazon's no doubt got one or two things up its sleeve...

If Amazon does launch a 10" Kindle Fire then Google will release a Nexus 10 roughly four months after Amazon's announcement, unless they're already working on it.


July 6, 2012, 2:57 pm

I think a more accurate take on the Nexus 7 is that it was produced to directly combat the kindle fire and the Amazon store - it matches the kindle on price and offers all the google play store as an alternative. I still think that at a price of £160 + delivery it isnt quite a budget killing device as you can buy 7" cheap tablets for £50 now - many of them with micro SD Card support. If google produced a 10" tablet with expandable storage at close to this price point it only then would it really shake up the tablet market


July 6, 2012, 7:34 pm

@Bugblatter and funmat - thanks for the comments guys, the Amazon Kindle Fire point is a good one, but for me not the main issue.

Amazon, Samsung, Acer, etc have the size to potentially compete with the Nexus 7. This is a primary strike at the smaller partners with cheap, low quality hardware. Google is looking to boost Android's reputation on tablets and if it spurs Amazon to produce a better Kindle (the existing Fire is arguably exactly the low quality, single core, outdated Android OS that Google wants rid of) then Google has achieved its aim.

Whether Google then goes to the next stage and wants to eliminate bigger, high quality partners is debatable - there seems little point to that - but it will be interesting to see...

Peter Morris

July 9, 2012, 3:20 pm

Frankly, Gordon, your excellent writing is pretty much the only thing that keeps me coming back to TR. Of course, some of your colleagues are solid (Ed in particular, who deserves his new position) but one or two are massively defensive when responding to reader feedback. That,with the move towards the reporting of rumours (especially in the IOS world) and the effing awful popups that plague iPad reading mean I am going elsewhere far more than I used to.

Please keep up the good work but, if anyone at TR cares, I believe things are getting worse lately.

Anyway, I look forward to more of you articles - where else do you write for?


July 10, 2012, 3:53 am

Total agreement with Peter. Gordon's articles have always informed and often entertained, without his input this would site would lose a shed-load of it's (already heavily diminished) appeal. That's enough smoke blowing in 2012 for Gordon! I hope TR's doesn't do a Nokia or a RIM.

I briefly changed browsers the other day to one that didn't have adblocker installed and it's very distracting. I'm very surprised that there's been no full Nexus 7 review yet... inexplicably slow on that one considering you were at the Google I/O conference. Did someone lose the freebies?!


July 10, 2012, 1:30 pm

Gordon you do know that Jelly Beans Source Code should be released today?

And calling low cost Android tablet makers partners is a bit rich more like free loaders, a lot of them don't even have Google Play access.

I think the design of this tablet was more to fend off Amazon, the lack of Micro SD points to this theory.

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