updated 04:28 pm EDT, Wed June 27, 2012
First device to ship with Jelly Bean
As expected, Google has unveiled the Nexus 7 tablet at its I/O developer conference in San Francisco. As the first Nexus-branded tablet, it will represent the first device to be powered by the upcoming Android 4.1 release, referred to as Jelly Bean. Users will be able to experience the latest Android features without any third-party UI overlays, following the same concept as the Nexus phones.
The tablet, manufactured by Asus, integrates a 1280x800 IPS display for wide viewing angles, while Android 4.1 has received a number of optimizations geared for the seven-inch screen. Google suggests the device is perfect as an e-book reader, gaming device, or an entertainment portal capable of playing 720p HD videos.
Google appears to be positioning the tablet as a direct competitor to the Kindle Fire, a $199 tablet that is powered by Android but ignores many of Google's products and services in favor of Amazon's ecosystem. Google has retained the same chipset that is found in many high-end Android devices, Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 components, while matching Amazon's $199 entry price.
To further sweeten the deal, Google is including a $25 Google Play credit with every Nexus 7. The promotion appears to be a push for users to embrace Google Play for more than just apps. The entry-level model also has 8GB of storage and lacks an SD slot, giving users more reason to take advantage of streaming content through Google's channels rather than filling local storage with content purchased from Amazon or iTunes.
As a competitor to the iPad, the IPS display and Tegra 3 chipset may make the Nexus 7 more of a compelling offering than the Kindle Fire. Unlike the Nexus-branded smartphones that compete directly with the iPhone in the high-end smartphone arena, however, the Nexus 7 remains in the budget segment instead of serving as a direct competitor to the iPad in terms of size, features and price.
The Nexus 7 is expected to ship sometime in July in North America, with other markets to follow. A 16GB variant will also be available alongside the 8GB model, bumping the price up to $249.