updated 12:20 pm EDT, Fri March 30, 2012
Google low cost Android tablet seen this year
Rumors percolating for a Google reference Android tablet were supplemented by a brief tip late Thursday. A Google staffer claimed to the New York Times that the hardware would be available later in the year. Details were scarce in the tip, although the newspaper supported the idea that it was aimed as much at the Kindle Fire as at the iPad and other, regular tablets.
Most rumors have settled around a seven-inch tablet that would cost around the Kindle Fire's $199 price. It might be made by ASUS and could even be a revamped take on the Eee Pad MeMo 370T, which ASUS showed at CES but promptly hid from the public eye. The design may use a Tegra 3, which if so could dramatically improve the quality of normally slow sub-$300 tablets.
On the surface, the tablet would serve as an example of the latest version of Android at the time it's ready, which could include an Android 4 update or Jelly Bean. Where stock Android was often the only choice for a tablet in 2011, most companies have since customized tablet-sized Android and left little for those who just want the pure experience. Many suspect the real goal now is to undermine the Kindle Fire and prevent a platform with no Google Play Store or other Google services from dictating the future of the OS.
The most probable venue for an introduction is thought to be the Google I/O conference starting June 27. A Google-run tablet store has been pegged for this year and could be one of the first outlets selling Google's own hardware.