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Google Launches Tablet Confusion Along with New Nexus 7 Tablet

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Color me puzzled. Google has announced and is accepting pre-orders of its own entry in the Tablet world. The Nexus 7, made by Asus, is a 7 inch Tablet supposedly targeted at both Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Apple’s iPad. Lots of folks are excited about the Nexus Tablet and deservedly so. The under $200 price point will certainly make a lot of folks take a look, and from the early reactions to the device the hardware looks to be quite nice.

But then there’s the software. Or rather the OS. Alongside the Nexus 7 Tablet, Google is rolling out an update to Ice Cream Sandwich, naming it Jelly Bean and giving it a point update to 4.1. But here’s the thing that I find confusing. I’m reading reports that the OS, while apparently having solved some of the laggy touch issues that Android on Tablets has been sadly known for, is actually designed for smartphones and not Tablets. Yeah, you read that right and it is a head scratcher. Both James Kendrick and Pocketables have some interesting writing on this that’s worth a read.

Before I get to the confusion that I’m experiencing let me state up front that with some exceptions this might not necessarily be a bad thing given the size of the form factor. Those exceptions include the fact that you’ll have to root your device and edit a system file if you want your home screen to flip into landscape mode. Call me crazy but when it comes to Tablets I think the screen should be capable of displaying what an App brings to the table in any orientation. So, I agree with James that this kind of UI restriction on a Tablet can be annoying, but I’m guessing there are some in the market who won’t care one way or the other. Certainly we are used to the portrait home screen metaphor on our smartphones.

But on to the confusion. Google’s business strategy so far on Tablets (and smarthphones for that matter,) has allowed OEMs to do what they want. The Nexus 7 Tablet, (like the Nexus variants of the Android smartphones) is supposed to set a standard for how Google sees the Tablet experience. Or at least that was my perception. If that’s the case, is Google sort of giving up on the Tablet front (meaning larger devices), instead focusing on smaller devices that are essentially media players? There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s the case. But I do find it curious that for awhile now we’ve seen versions of Android on smaller devices that contain the phone bits. They also have to be sold with some sort of data contract. I have to admit, I’d have been really interested in a Galaxy Note if it didn’t have the phone functionality and carrier overhead. I’m sure Samsung is scratching its head about this as well. Is Google saying that Samsung and others can now break away from the carriers on future devices? That would be intriguing given the subsidized price points that we’ve seen them sell for in the recent past.

Essentially, Google has created a mystery here that we probably won’t have answers to for awhile yet. It would easy and premature to say that Google is giving up on larger Tablets and creating a Tablet UI based on this news. But then again, if this signature device is meant to send a signal, I’m not sure which one Google is sending.

Warner Crocker is a professional theatre director, producer and playwright and also a Tablet PC enthusiast. He is also a Microsoft MVP for Tablet PCs. Send email to Warner. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

6 Comments

  1. Sheila

    07/05/2012 at 9:08 am

    If true, there is an 85% chance that I may cancel my Nexus 7 pre order. The main reason for my order is to have a 7″ tablet that can run Android tablet apps in tablet mode and to have a landscape view.

    • Corderral

      07/05/2012 at 9:27 am

      Only the home screen launcher is locked in portrait mode, not the apps

      • Sheila

        07/05/2012 at 10:21 am

        So, you are saying that I will see the tablet ui view of apps instead of the phone view of apps? Also, will Google Play will recognize the Nexus 7 as a tablet and I can download tablet apps?

        Ex. Mint tablet app/view is way different than the phone app/view. I want to download, see and use the tablet app/view.

        • steb0ne

          07/05/2012 at 12:23 pm

          Yes Sheila.. the apps are designed to recognize the LCD density… ICS is for both tablets and phones. The Nexus 7 will run both tablet and phone apps just fine.

  2. Jayray78

    07/05/2012 at 12:48 pm

    Wow, way to spread misinformation. ICS and more so JB bridge the gap between Honeycomb and Gingerbread. I thought it was common knowledge That 4.X was designed for both tablets and phones or did you miss that?

    And my understanding of the portrait/landscape issue is that in portrait the tab with use the phone UI because of the cramped width and in landscape will use the extra real estate to show full tablet UI.

    Also, I guess you aren’t in the know about Google ordering 10″ screens. Yeah, a Nexus 10 is on the way.

    I’m gonna go bang my head against the wall now and try to be as dumb as you.

  3. jzero

    07/05/2012 at 3:15 pm

    Don’t bother Jayray, this guy has never written anything truly positive about a non Apple product. You just have to expect this kind of drivel from this iPadophile.

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