Google’s Nexus tablet may push Android partners out of the picture

Media tablets powered by Google’s Android operating system have for the most part been unable to capture consumers’ interest. With just a few exceptions, sales of individual Android tablet models have been extremely low by all accounts. Amazon’s new Kindle Fire is one such exception thanks to an attractive price point and tight integration with Amazon services. Google has seemingly taken note of Amazon’s success, and a new report suggests the company is working on a budget-priced slate of its own that will launch in the next few months. Read on for more.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt noted last month that the company was working on an own-brand tablet, but there was a great deal of confusion surrounding his comments. “[In the] next six months we plan to market a tablet of the highest quality,” Schmidt reportedly told an Italian newspaper. A spokesman for Google in Taiwan said the company had no knowledge of plans to launch an own-brand tablet, and Google’s headquarters has remained silent on the matter.

While Schmidt did mention that quality was a big deal, the more significant news may have been uncovered in a new report Thursday morning. Citing anonymous sources from within Google’s supply chain, DigiTimes suggests that the slate will compete directly with the Kindle Fire at an enticing $199 price point.

The site goes on to report that Google’s Nexus tablet will feature a 7-inch display, and it will launch in March or April. Such a tablet would also undoubtedly be powered by Google’s new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, and it would be built in cooperation with Motorola Mobility in all likelihood. Google is currently trying to acquire Motorola for $12.5 billion.

It has already been widely discussed that an own-brand tablet from Google would likely cannibalize its Android partners’ tablet sales, though there isn’t much to cannibalize at this point. With prices of other Android tablets hovering around the iPad’s $500 entry point, however, a $199 tablet from Google would likely render partner offerings obsolete. Who would purchase a $500 Samsung tablet when $199 will get you a slate “of the highest quality” that will also be the first such device to receive new software updates as they become available?

Google has yet to confirm that it is working on a Nexus tablet and with the first wave of Android 4.0 devices from partners expected to be unveiled next week, it is unlikely that the company will discuss its tablet until some time after the Consumer Electronics Show. There have already been persistent rumors that multiple PC vendors plan to abandon their Android tablet efforts. Being forced to compete with a $199 own-brand tablet from Google as well as the iPad and Kindle Fire may be all the motivation these companies need to throw in the towel and wait for Windows 8.

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