Google's annual IO Conference has always been where new product are announced, but the company's offerings have never before been so hardware-themed as this year: late last night, Google launched the Nexus 7 tablet, Nexus Q streaming media client and opened limited pre-orders on its Project Glass augmented-reality glasses.
Google's Nexus 7, to start, is - as the name suggests - a seven-inch tablet running the Android operating system. Made by Asus for sale under the Google Nexus brand - matching the company's Samsung-manufactured Nexus Smartphones - the device boasts a 1,280x800 216 pixel-per-inch high-resolution display behind which beats an Nvidia Tegra 3 system-on-chip processor with four primary ARM cores and a fifth battery-saving 'companion core.'
As well as being remarkably high-resolution, the display uses in-plane switching (IPS) technology for excellent viewing angles, and is protected by Corning's anti-scratch glass - although neither Google nor Asus is confirming whether this is Gorilla Glass or the second-generation Dragon Glass product.
1GB of RAM is included along with the choice of 8GB or 16GB of internal storage, with Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth connectivity as well as an integrated near-field communication (NFC) transceiver, GPS, gyroscope, magnetometer, accelerometer, and microphone. A 4,350mAh battery offers a claimed eight hours of active use, but keeps the weight down at a very pocketable 340g in a 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm casing.
The Nexus 7 also comes with Android 'Jelly Bean' 4.1, a new version of Google's mobile platform which boasts tighter integration with the Google Play store - previously known as the Android Market. Users will be expected to spend heavily on app content as well as films, TV programs, music, books, magazines and even newspapers, all of which gives Google a cut of the proceeds. It's a direct answer to the threat of Amazon's Kindle Fire sub-$200 tablet, which uses a customised version of Android which points people away from the Google Play store and towards Amazon's own Appstore.
The Nexus 7 is the first official outing for Nvidia's cut-price Tegra implementation Kai
, which the company is aiming at sub-$200 tablets. You'll be pleased to hear that translates into a very affordable sum across the pond: the tablet is already available to pre-order through Google Play at £199 for the 16GB version
or £159 for the 8GB version
If you're curious to know more about the Nexus 7, Google has provided a little video walkthrough:
The Nexus 7 was joined by a wholly new device in Google's ecosystem, the Nexus Q. Described as the world's first social media streaming player, the Q is an entirely in-house effort and designed like nothing else on the market. As Google's blatantly Apple-inspired product page
shows, it's a sphere with an integrated Android media hub and high-grade amplifier designed to pair with Google's various media streaming services including Google Play and YouTube.
It's Google's answer to the Apple TV, basically - but it comes at a cost: while a UK price hasn't yet been confirmed, Google is taking US pre-orders for the Q at an eyebrow-raising $299 - a $200 premium over the cost of Apple's rival product.
Trying to figure out how a sphere-shaped media streamer looks in action? Here's Google's four-minute advert for the high-priced device:
Finally, Google wowed the crowds with a live demonstration of its Project Glass augmented reality glasses project, giving attendees a point-of-view stream from a skydiving engineer. While most footage was filmed with a Go Pro action camera, Google's stunt demonstrated the flexibility - if not the recording quality - of Project Glass with mid-air Google+ Hangouts.
The demonstration impressed with its capabilities, but Google's original plan to release the device before the end of the year for the cost of a high-end smartphone appears to have been lost along the way: a limited pre-order system was announced at the event, allowing attendees with US addresses to order a special developer's edition of the glasses for a massive $1,500 with delivery not due until some time early next year. As for a commercial release, that wasn't part of Google's presentation.
Wondering what skydiving Google+ looks like? Behold:
Google's IO Conference announcements show that the company is keen to compete with Apple, but run the risk of alienating its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners. The Nexus 7, in particular, is a very tempting device and one which could cut into sales of rival Android-based devices from Amazon, Samsung, and even Asus itself.