Smaller, gutsier, cheaper
Google is changing the tablet game again, writes Jennifer Dudley-nicholson
THERE’S a new tablet in town and it’s already selling out across Australia. Google’s first home-brand tablet, the Nexus 7, began disappearing from shop shelves just days after its appearance and continues to vanish at a rapid rate.
Google executive director Eric Schmidt labelled worldwide pre-orders for the tablet ‘‘ immense’’ before the 16GB version sold out in the company’s own online store.
But the sell-outs are not surprising experts. This tablet is smaller and lighter than the market-leading Apple iPad, features powerful hardware and new Android software. Plus, it is only $249. Analysts say it is that budget price, as well as the quality of the tablet itself, that is attracting buyers in their thousands. It could also have wider implications for the industry, both in forcing prices down and influencing the size of tablets to come, perhaps even those from the market leader.
The Nexus 7, made by ASUS, began to creep into Australia earlier this month after pre-orders began in late June, but Dick Smith stores were already showing sell-outs across all states last week.
The 7-inch tablet weighs just 340g and is powered by a quad-core processor. It is the first device to use Google’s new Android Jelly Bean software and comes in 8GB or 16GB varieties.
It does lack some features in high-end tablets, including a 3G internet connection, rear camera and expandable memory.
But Telsyte research director Foad Fadaghi says Google’s first tablet is advanced enough to become a ‘‘ my-first-tablet-style purchase’’ for many Australian consumers.
‘‘ More than 20 per cent of the population don’t have media tablets yet, so there’s a huge opportunity to sell these devices in Australia,’’ he says.
‘‘ As long as they’re seen as more advanced than the budget tablets before them, they’re quite likely to attract plenty of first-time buyers.’’
Telsyte had predicted more than two million tablets would be sold in Australia this year, after consumers snapped up more than 1.4 million in 2011.
But Fadaghi says the firm will ‘‘ likely raise’’ that fore- cast following this tablet’s release. The sales jump will not be due to Nexus 7 alone but its affect on other tablet makers.
‘‘ Any new tablets will have to come out cheaper and any existing products sitting on the shelves right now are likely to come down in price,’’ he says.
‘‘ The shelf life for tablets is a very short period even by consumer electronics standards. Products around for six months are considered old.’’
Budget-priced tablets are already increasing in number and sophistication. Australian electronics firm Kogan recently released a 10-inch Android tablet for $179 and its first shipment has sold out, with another due later this month.
The Nexus 7’s form has also raised questions about the shape of future tablets, with some analysts suggesting Google’s move puts pressure on Apple to produce a smaller, cheaper version of its iPad.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts Apple is already on track to produce an ‘‘ iPad Mini’’, with components shipping in August and a release scheduled for September.
‘‘ The modified new iPad shares the same exterior as the original model,’’ Kuo says, ‘‘ but contains modifications to correct its thermal dissipation problem and lower-cost components.’’
Predictions of a smaller iPad contradict comments by late Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, who once labelled 7-inch tablets ‘‘ tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad’’.
‘‘ The reason we wouldn’t make a 7-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit a price point, it’s because we don’t think you can make a great tablet with a 7-inch screen. We think it’s too small to express the software that people want to put on these things,’’ he said.
But Fadaghi says Apple has changed its focus after Jobs and it would make ‘‘ financial sense for the organisation to create a lower-end device, whether that’s smaller or not’’.
‘‘ A smaller device would fit with those people who are using smaller, thinner and lighter laptops,’’ he says.
‘‘ Carrying a 7-inch tablet with one of those might be more appropriate.’’ Tapping market: Hugo Barra, product management director of Android, introduces Google’s new low-cost computer tablet, the Nexus 7.