Google has a couple of smart phones of its own — the Nexus One and Nexus S — to serve as the flagships of its fleet, and now it might be working to add a tablet to the team.
According to a story at PC World, Google (GOOG) is teaming up with LG to create a Nexus tablet, which will run on Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the latest, tablet-only version of Google’s open-source mobile operating system.
The report comes from Mobile-Review, a Russian tech website that pegs the launch of the Nexus tab as early as this summer or fall. PC World speculates the new tab would come with a new brand of Honeycomb, too — Android 3.X — given that the other Nexus devices Google has released have had upgraded new Android versions pre-installed when they shipped.
Google has a developing record of pairing with companies for one-offs in the Nexus line. It went with HTC (2498.TW) for the now-retired Nexus One and tapped Samsung (005930.KS) for the well-received Nexus S, so pairing up with a third company, LG, seems reasonable. However, the rumor doesn’t carry any other information about the tab — we don’t know its features at all — even though it supposedly is on track to hit shelves later this year.
It’s easy to speculate, though, over what the tab will include. In order to be competitive, expect the Nexus tab to sport two cameras — one up front, one around back — and a dual-core processor, probably one faster than (or definitely comparable to) the A5 chip found in Apple’s (AAPL) iPad 2. An SD card slot and USB port are probable, as are Wi-Fi-only and 3G/4G versions of the tab.
If the past is any indication, Google will sell the tablet direct to users without a contract, and through a designated carrier that will provide a subsidy to the price in exchange for taking a two-year contract (assuming there’s a 3G/4G version, and not seeing one seems highly unlikely).
We also don’t know the price of the possible Nexus tab. It’s tough to speculate here, but if Samsung’s recent moves are any indication with the Galaxy Tab, Google would be wise to keep the price as low as possible — at least comparable to the cheapest iPad 2 at $499.
Google would also do well to attack the market not just with a new tab and new specs, but with a plan for the experience of the user as well. The tablet market is dominated by the iPad right now, and while manufacturers are firing off Android tabs in all directions and at numerous price points and power levels, all of them fail to consider one crucial detail: what you can actually do with the thing.
Meanwhile, Apple rolled out the iPad 2 in early March and spent most of that keynote presentation discussing anything but the iPad 2. The majority of the presentation was dominated by two new iOS apps built specifically for the new iPad: GarageBand and iMovie. Apple CEO Steve Jobs and his crew don’t bother to talk about specs, largely because tablets are new and unexplored, unlike PCs, with which users are familiar when it comes to increasing power and capabilities. Apple always makes sure to show people what their tablets can actually do. Android tab manufacturers, on the other hand, have a tendency to talk about what the hardware is capable of without providing any context as far as applications or user experience.
Google’s Nexus tab should come out swinging not by talking about hardware and comparing itself to Apple, but by being built around three to five amazing applications that make people sit up and say, “I want to do that, and the only way I can is to own a Nexus tab.” That has been Apple’s iPad strategy all along. If Google is indeed building its own tablet, it needs to be the Android standard-bearer, and the best way to do that is to demonstrate the sort of experience Android is capable of delivering.