Google has released its first tablet, the Nexus 7, for $199, the company announced Wednesday at its developers conference in San Francisco.
The 7-inch tablet is for sale now on the Google Play store and will ship in mid-July. Purchasers will receive a $25 credit for the Play store, as well as some free subscriptions and a free copy of — check your excitement — the latest “Transformers” movie.
The company made the tablet in collaboration with Asus and will deliver its Google Play content to users.
The tablet is optimized for Google Play, said Hugo Barra, Google’s director of product management. He compared the Nexus 7’s form to that of a paperback book — a metaphor that many have used to tout the merits of a iPad-sized tablet versus a smaller-sized device along the lines of Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
As was expected, the tablet has a Tegra 3 quad-core processor and a 12-core general processing unit for running games, movies, apps and all other content smoothly. The screen is 1280 x 800, and Google says the tablet will give about nine hours of battery life.
The tablet will have 8GB of memory for the $199 version — a bump to 16 GB of memory will raise the cost to $249. The tablet has one micros USB port, runs the latest Android Jelly Bean system and has 1 GB of RAM. It also has a microphone, an NFC chip that works with Google’s Android Beam services, a GPS and an accelerometer.
This tablet, unlike the Kindle Fire, also has external volume controls — a minor but important distinction from Amazon’s tablet. The home, back and menu keys are software keys, not actual, physical buttons.
Engineering director Chris Yerga showed off the tablet’s display for books and magazines, which allow users to choose between print and tablet-optimized layouts. He also demonstrated the Nexus’s video playback and its recommendation engine.
One particular announcement that got a big cheer from the developer crowd: Google Chrome is the default browser on the Nexus 7.
Almost all of Google’s products are integrated into the device. For example, Yerga demonstrated how to pull Google Maps into a Google search for a restaurant, using the gyroscope to navigate a panoramic photo.
The company has also baked Google Translate into its Google Currents news reader app, which immediately flipped content from English to Arabic in the demo. (I don’t read Arabic, so I don’t know how accurate it was.)
Yerga also showcased gaming, which he said will revolutionize the mobile gaming space. The tablet’s graphics were impressive for a mobile device, and developers will surely have some fun playing with the accelerometer to create richer games.