Smaller, gut­sier, cheaper

Google is chang­ing the tablet game again, writes Jen­nifer Dud­ley-ni­chol­son

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

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.

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