Google unveiled two new hardware products Wednesday, the Nexus 7 tablet and the Chromecast, a small attachment that wirelessly connects a television to other devices. The Nexus 7 is thinner, more expensive and more powerful than previous versions:
The extra firepower added to the second generation of the tablets will come with a higher price. A model with 16 gigabytes of storage will sell for $229, a $30 per increase from the current Nexus 7 released a year ago. That’s still 30 percent below the $329 that Apple Inc. charges for its iPad Mini. A comparable Kindle Fire HD tablet from Amazon.com Inc. currently sells for $199.
A 32-gigabyte version of the Nexus 7 will sell for $269, a $20 price increase.
The price hike for the Nexus 7 comes at a time when more people have been showing a preference for less expensive tablets. Google helped propel the trend with last year’s introduction of the Nexus line, contributing to pressure for Apple to come out with the iPad Mini as an alternative to its top-selling tablets with a 10-inch screen.
Google is confident the Nexus 7 will still look like a great value once consumers see how much more powerful the new models are, said Sundar Pichai, an executive who oversees the company’s Android and Chrome software.
The iPad Mini has driven down the average selling price of Apple’s tablets, hurting the Cupertino, Calif., company’s profit margins.
Even at a lower price, the Nexus tablets haven’t been as popular as the iPad. Pichai said the Nexus products account for about 10 percent, or 7 million, of the roughly 70 million tablets now running Android software.
In the first half of this year alone, Apple sold 34 million iPads, including full-size models.
Amazon.com doesn’t disclose its sales of Kindle Fires, which run on a modified version of Android. The research firm IDC estimates about 1.8 million Kindle Fires were sold during the first three months of this year.
The Nexus 7 will be the first device to get the 4.3 version of its Android software. It’s a relatively minor upgrade from the “Jelly Bean” flavor of Android. Google still hasn’t said when it will release a more comprehensive Android overhaul, currently known as “Key Lime Pie.”
See images of the Nexus 7 and the competition below.
The Chromecast is more versatile than other, similar devices and services that allow users to display content from their phones or computers on their television screens:
The big selling point? The Chromecast lets users do that streaming or sharing while also allowing the devices to do other tasks.
With the Chromecast, analysts said, Google appears to have learned a lesson from some of its own missteps and those of its competitors. The small device, which fits into a TV’s HDMI port, eliminates some of the usual frustrations with TV streaming. For example, while Apple TV and, to a lesser extent, the Xbox allow users to beam some content from their mobile devices to the television, the mobile devices then can’t be used for anything else at the same time. Google says that the Chromecast will enable multitasking on the laptop, tablet or other device without interrupting what’s streaming on the TV.
Chromecast also comes with built-in support not only for Google devices but also for Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Chrome browser on Macs and PCs. That means that nearly every television can now get a Google upgrade — a major shift for the competitive landscape, analysts said.
Now, said James McQuivey, a principal analyst at Forrester, “it’s not a war of smart versus dumb TVs — it’s a war of which smart TV.”. . .
Apple TV and Roku are both priced to move with their newest models starting at $99. Chromecast costs $35.
That lower price, McQuivey said, draws a sharp line between Google and competitors such as Apple and Microsoft and shows that the company has a different vision for how to make money off the television. Apple, he explained, aims for profit from the sale of its popular devices and won’t take a run at a new product unless it believes it can make money off the sales of that hardware. Microsoft is splitting the difference by packaging multimedia entertainment in a dedicated device of its own, the Xbox One.
But for Google — which hasn’t made much inroad with its own TV devices — the motivations are now completely different.
“Google doesn’t care about making any money on the device,” McQuivey said. “The future is about software.”
For more on Google’s new products, continue reading here.