Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kindle-related News: Google officially announces Nexus 7" tablet. The upshot? - Update

The Google Nexus 7" tablet is officially announced.

As I wrote in the last blog entry, Google's Nexus, made by Asus, has been "due out any day" and they finally officially announced it today.  It's obviously meant to be a Kindle Fire competitor.  Coming almost a year later than the Kindle Fire, it has the latest features of course.

Like the 2011-Economy model Kindle Fire though, the $199 price gives you 8 gigs of storage and No SD card slot, the latter omission a surprise to many.

  Many of us use the cell-phone sized Wi-Drive for external portable storage with the Kindle Fire (and even with the iPad), and it streams files simultaneously to up to 3 devices and works very well.

A 16-gig Google Nexus tablet will cost $249.  It won't have an SD card slot either though.  Note that the Nook Tablet does.

An 8-gig tablet will no longer do it, although it barely did before, and the new Android games that are popular can use up most of the app storage space.  So, 16 gigs is the minimum, and the Kindle Fire 2 too will also have to offer that and should have before.

  But the Nexus has definite advantages over the current Kindle Fire (although as reported today, a 'credible source' told CNET that Amazon is due to announce a 2nd Kindle Fire model on or about July 31).

The more noteworthy specs
Engadget's Jon Fingas reports that, as the creator of the operating system, Google has "the first and currently only tablet shipping with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), which has optimization for smaller tablet screens, magazines and movies."

"What we get for the money: that quad-core Tegra 3, 1.2-megapixel front camera, NFC and 1280 x 800, IPS-based LCD are traits we'd normally look for in a pricier tablet.  How much pricier, you ask?  Google is asking just $199 for a dainty 8GB model and $249 for a 16GB version -- that's a lot of speed for the money, especially with a $25 Google Play credit and a slew of bundled content.  There's no SD card slot, however" [as mentioned above because it's such a disappointment to many].

So, that is a FAST 7" tablet.  Now, many of us wait to see what Amazon might be smart enough to offer because they need to offer something more substantial this year.

  While the first Kindle Fire work was outsourced, this one has been rumored to be Amazon's own to manage or mangle, so it'll be interesting to see.   I already have what is considered one of the best two Android 10" tablets out there (Samsung's, in my case), and I do love to use it, but it's still the Kindle Fire that I pick up everyday to use at home and to take out with me, so there is something about it that works for me and, it seems, for many others.

   Despite my previous computer background, my everyday needs are fairly simple.  I just want to read, browse the web, and listen to some music and not infrequently watch a TV series program that I missed on my TV and which my OnDemand cable doesn't offer.  That's easily done.

  GAME players will run out of space faster however, and people who are app-happy and want to have them all available, rather than store most of them on the cloud until actually using them, just need more storage space.  I mainly wish Amazon had added more internal storage space and an SD card slot for the usual storage expansion capability.

  The new Kindle Fire coming (and we know it is, because of all the activity in Europe, and leaks to CNET are for a purpose).

  At this point the Kindle Fire 2 needs to have a 1280px long-side display though I've been happy with the 1024 x 600, but this gadget game is about ever-increasing best specs and now iPad's 'Retina' has set higher expectations (and higher storage needs for iPad owners), although with smaller screens the current displays for KFire and Nook Tablet still look very good, which surprised a friend of mine who uses an iPad 3.

Here's Engadget's Google I/O 2012 event-details page for those more interested in this.

The Bits blog at the New York Times, by Brian X Chen (didn't he work for Wired?) adds that the v4.1 Jelly Bean Android system "will have smoother animation and the ability to transcribe speech into text, according to Google."

TNW (The Next Web) has a good events page too.

  They mention that the new OS version has a predictive keyboard, and Google Voice Search (which I have on my Samsung Galaxy S2 smart phone and it's really amazingly accurate and understands my mumbling somehow).

  As someone more interested in privacy of movements, I'm not that keen on the "google Now" feature, since they explain that it "figures out where you commute to work you a faster route if there is a lot of traffic. When you're at a public transit stop, Google Now tells you when the next one arrives."  Others will find that a neat thing and very helpful.   I'd prefer Google not always 'know' where I am (it reminds me of sci fi stories and seems to give larger entities a bit more control over the crowd, at least our buying and going habits), and, besides, enabling the GPS feature can really drain the battery, so I leave mine off.
  My phone lasts a long time and that's more important to me, to say the least.  I like that I can turn ON GPS and get traffic info and directions when I want, though.

The movie partners for the Google app store (called Google Play -- formerly known as "The Market" or "The marketplace") includes "Disney, Bravo, NBCUniversal and more."  They'll of course be paid features. Google's store used to offer video only rentals but will now offer complete purchases (movie and tv) and magazines.

That should give you enough information.  It will ship in mid-July and people can order now.  I'll wait for the Kindle Fire announcements though, as I am actually still enjoying my KFire without having to spend more money yet.  If Amazon offers something substantailly better, I may spring for it.

Right now a faster, maybe visibly sharper-display tablet with no SD card slot is not that attractive to me yet, and the $199 version still has only 8 gigs of storage space, which is really odd and false economy for something so forward-looking otherwise.

 I'll say one thing, if anyone decides to buy it, get the 16-gig model rather than the 8-gig one, as in no way with game apps today will you want to spend another $200 on the latest device ("saving" $50) to be limited to forever watching how much space you have for apps and data and wondering what to do about it, moving things back and forth.  That would be false savings and no fun.

An important consideration (Update)
In the meantime, think about any contacts you've ever tried to reach in email or on the phone with Google customer support for any reason.  I am pretty sure this will come to be a very important factor in all this.  Have they ramped up a team to handle this? They tend to leave forum-help to volunteers and work behind the scenes developing a lot of useful programs. So, this will be something to watch.

Also, current Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet users should actually go handle a full Android device first, with its entirely different user interface, to know what that's like, but I read that Google has made the Nexus interface considerably more easily navigable than you'll see on generic Android tablets.

Current Kindle Models for reference, plus free-ebook search links
Kindle Fire  7" tablet - $199
Kindle NoTouch ("Kindle") - $79/$109
Kindle Touch, WiFi
- $99/$139
Kindle Touch, 3G/WiFi - $149/$189
Kindle Keybd 3G - $189, Free, slow web
Kindle DX - $379, Free, slow web
Kindle Basic, NoTouch - £89
Kindle Touch WiFi, UK - £109
Kindle Touch 3G/WiFi, UK - £169
Kindle Keyboard 3G, UK - £149
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB
OTHER International
Kindle NoTouch Basic - $109
Kindle Touch WiFi - $139
Kindle Touch 3G/WiFi - $189
Kindle Keybd 3G - $189
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB

Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

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  1. Andrys, great analysis of the Nexus 7" tablet. The lack of SD card slot (and puny 8GB in the base model) is initially puzzling, until you think about it this way: Google is pushing the Play Store integration on this device very heavily (obviously in competition with Kindle Fire), which means that they want people to use the device to buy movies & TV though Google Play Store. Given the number of free media players for Android (e.g. MX Player) that will play any kind of video file, if this device had a SD card slot, it would be all too easy to fill up a 32GB SD card with dozens of hours of content acquired outside of the Play Store (e.g. torrents!). Google gets around this storage limitation with the emphasis that Play Store video content will *stream* to the device, as opposed to downloading and storing big files locally.

    This is understandable, as the Play Store gives Google an alternative revenue stream to just selling tons of ads.

    Bottom line: I'm with you; the 16GB version is the one to get! :)

    1. The-Everyday-Critic,
      I'm afraid you're right, and I hope that Amazon decides to take the chance since they have a natural customer base that actually looks to buy new material while enjoying the old and that would give them the advantage over the Nexus if they do it. Otherwise ...


  2. My reaction to the Nexus: (yawn). Not sure my reaction to a KF2 will be all that much better -- I'm really happy with my KF. There have been some noises (and some intriguing cartoon books under pre order for the KDX -- among others) suggesting that they may do something to refresh the KDX this "back to school" season.

    The one positive that may come from the Nexus is that Amazon will get off the pot and announce something already -- they actually have 2 shots at it this year: something in the next month, and then something else 6 weeks later for Christmas -- they could do some e-ink things now, and the fire follow-on later for Xmas.

    I expect them to reduce the price on the existing KF -- perhaps to $149. Pricing has always been a big part of their weaponry -- so maybe a new fire might come in under $199 :grin. A larger screened fire would give rise to inevitable comparisons with the iPad -- a road down which I don't think Bezos wants to travel. A large screened e-ink device would avoid that, and might play into "back to school".

    Things like quad core, SD, and a camera don't excite me all that much

    The interesting take-away for me from day one of I/O was not the Nexus, but that Google announced "tabletized" apps for G+ on the iPad and Android (presumably that latter would work on the Fire).

    If I personally do buy a tablet this year, it's likely to be MS's Surface/pro. I am definitely gonna get an ultrabook if I can find one with a 13" screen, 16gb RAM, and a 512gb SSD. (price obviously no object on that one :D) -- as my work-a-day laptop is getting long in the tooth. I'm pretty much locked in to waiting for the fall and the Windows 8 delivery, Windows Phone 8 devices, iPhone5, MS Surfii, Amazon stuff, and lots of Ultrabooks.

    I'm going to have a real Happy Christmas this year :D

    1. Edward, sorry I wasn't here earlier for release of postings when it takes time to comment, and I appreciate it.

      That Nexus's display resolution, speed, and ability to have an upgraded Android system before anyone else, whenever available, are definitely advantages! but the Achilles Hell if there is one, is if Amazon provides an SD slot for the KFire 2.

      Totally agree with you re Amazon being prodded by Nexus announcements (and earlier, B&N doing the pathfinding on providing a mostly workable lighted e-Ink eReader even if some have found the lighted display fragile) to announce something, though I think the leak we have is all we'll see and that means another month of no word except in news-site speculations but if they wanted to have people wait before springing for the Nexus, it'll do that for some but only because Google withheld an SD slot. However, I think Everyday-Critic is on to the actual reason they withhold these convenient features that ANY netbook worth paying for does have.

      I think every report (DigiTimes as source) has said the current KFire would go to $149 so that is probably likely, in that by the time a KFire2 comes out, the KFire will be year-old technology and it was conservatively built in the first place.
      I'd love you to be right that a KFire2 could come in under $199 if they use the special-offers capability, which many e-Ink Kindlers have actually liked.

      With the DX, it really IS time they upgraded it to the Kindle 3 Keyboard capabilities since those two models came out only 2 months apart and the extra PDF capabilities that the Kindle 3 Keyboard has is something the DX should have had all this time.

      For Amazon's crowd and people buying tablets in general, an SD slot is everything, and it's important to me too. My 3-year old 10" netbook has a multi-sizes memory card slot, 3 USB slots, an ethernet connector, and the convenience is terrific. My Samsung 10" tablet offers optional connectors for these, and I make do with them, but it's a hassle to try to remember those two pieces when I'm going on a small trip, bringing a camera, and want to back pics up as I have been able to for years. But at least I can. Both the Samsung and iPad at least have optional adapter connectors.

      A camera is important for Amazon's crowd because the world uses Skype and this involves family/friends, and if all 7" tablets except the KindleFire2 had a front-facing camera, the KindleFire2 would probably lose half or more of its potential buyers.

      Like you I have been using my KFire daily, but as the field changes, other peoples's expectations change and when they're making new buying decisions, Amazon has to pay attention to those.

      Also like you, I'm almost sure to get the SurfacePro as it's too slow to blog when I'm away, on the Samsung 10" tablet because even though it's comfy with the customized case with built-in bluetooth keyboard which was made for it, there is something goofy about the software where the cursor is concerned, and it really slows me down. So does the multi-tab handling of two things at a time on the Android tablet, even though it actually RUNS a background program whereas the iPad suspends one while running another. Copying things from a source to target is too cumbersome with Android with the selection methods.

      Also, I really want to use full Photoshop when away and the Surface Pro should make that easy. All I want is 10" on a netbook-type tablet, as I can see well enough with it but it allows me to travel light. BUSINESSES would be delighted to have full Microsoft Ofc on a tablet, but then Microsoft will have to price it carefully or there'll be no incentive for businesses to go for it rather than an inexpensive netbook.

      My 10" Netbook was great until, on a trip, I spilled some tasty minestrone soup on it! It's slowed down a lot since then and since it was only $320 when I bought it 3 years ago, I would go your route and get a new one.

  3. The tablet market baffles me, in that it apparently exists purely off confusing its consumer.

    A Kindle Fire-killer? A belated response to a years-overdue Amazon answer to the Nook Color... and this, in late 2012?! C'mon, seriously?

    All this subsidized 2009-era Made in China tech sold by content providers is beyond ridiculous. Like cellular operators, it's time for them to look truth in the eye and realize that there are only 2 viable business models out there, with zero middle ground:
    1) provide bleeding-edge, expensive tech - flashy, stylish, and advanced - like Apple's iOS gear or the Samsung Galaxy lines; OR
    2) provide "free", subscription- and/or future purchase-driven basic devices, like today's remaining keypad-operated cellular devices.

    Can't have the cake and eat it too, Google and Amazon. If you want to SELL a device and dare call it a modern TABLET (vs. free distribution and admitting up front it's a futures sales, adware, and spyware-driven platform), you can't go to market with such horrid specs. It needs looks. Eye candy. And power. Whether that's the brushed aluminum, 8 cores, under-10mm thickness, cell phone-like weight, and blindly bright 720p AMOLED screen of Samsung's brilliant subcompact Galaxy Tab 7.7" providing 10-12 hours of HD video playback that fits in your suit pocket(preferably without similarly spectacular cock-ups from the marketing folks), or the over-1080p (dimmer but higher resolution) bulky but iconic styling of the powerhouse known as the latest iPad, a commercial product needs FEATURES...

    As to the value appeal to the cheap (since top-of-the-line goodness can be had for ~$400 these days), if your product is subsidized by future sales - can you REALLY afford to pitch it to the poorest segments? People who buy $150 tablets won't turn around and buy your overpriced media offerings, they'll just browse the web for free content, play free games, or just steal the high-price content.


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