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Google changes gears with branded products

Google Inc. (GOOG) has reigned supreme over the smartphone market in unit sales, even as it has struggled with profitability and intellectual property concerns.

But the taste of success in the mobile space has left Google hungry.  Amid mostly weak tablet efforts by OEMs, Google has opted for a bold strategy that is highly analogous to Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFTapproach with the Surface products -- offering a compelling array of branded options, while continuing to offer OEMs opportunity to produce their own branded product by offering licensing opportunities.

Last Monday, the Nexus family grew into a product trio -- a phone (4-inches), a mid-size tablet (7-inches), and a full-size tablet (10-inches).

I. The Product

Here's a quick recap of the changes/new stuff:

Nexus 4

OEM partner: LG Electronics (KSC:066570)

Screen: 4.7-inch True HD IPS PLUS (1280x768 pixels)
CPU: 1.5 GHz quad-core SnapDragon 4 by Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM)
GPU: Adreno 320
Storage: 8/16 GB (no microSD!)
Battery: 2,100 mAh
Cameras: 8MP, AF, LED flash (rear); 1.3MP (front): 
Connectivity: HSPA+ (no LTE), 802.11 b/g/n
Extras: NFC, wireless charging, BlueTooth 4.0 
OS: Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean v2)

Nexus 7
OEM partner: ASUSTek Computer Inc. (TPE:2357)

Screen: 7-inch Asus TruVivid (1280x800 pixels)
CPU: 1.3 GHz quad-core Tegra 3 by NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA)
GPU: 416 MHz 12-core GeForce ULP (NVIDIA)
Storage: 16 GB ($199) or 32 GB ($249) (no microSD!)
Battery: 4,325 mAh
Cameras: 1.2MP (front): 
Connectivity: HSPA+ (no LTE) for +$50, 802.11 b/g/n, BlueTooth 3.0 
Extras: NFC
OS: Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean v1), upgrade to 4.2 this month

Nexus 10
OEM partner: Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930)

Screen: 10.1-inch PLS-backlit display (2560x1600 pixels)
CPU: 1.7 GHz dual-core Cortex-A15
GPU: Mali T-604 (ARM Holdings plc (LON:ARM)
Storage: 16 GB ($399) or 32 GB ($499) (no microSD!)
Battery: 9,000 mAh
Cameras: 5MP, AF, flash (rear)/1.9MP (front): 
Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n, BlueTooth 3.0 
Extras: NFC
OS: Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean v2)

II. The Strategy

One week later, Google's John Lagerling, director of business development for Android, participated in a special Q&A session with The New York Times discussing the motivation for the expanded Nexus push.

He emphasizes the need for Android to get more aggressive in tablet pricing, calling the Nexus 7/10 price points "pretty revolutionary."  Pricing was a key driver of Android smartphone adoption, and higher prices on Android tablets have been a key adoption deterrent, so this makes sense.

John Lagerling
John Lagerling, Android business director [Image Source: Pocket]

He comments, "We did really well with the Nexus 7, I feel, because nobody really pushed the envelope with seven-inch in terms of price and performance. It really proved that category. We felt the 10-inch category was overpriced and underpowered, and we wanted to see what we could do for that from our perspective."

When it comes to subsidiary Motorola, he somewhat contradicts the past commentary of other Google brass who said the acquisition wasn't just about patents, by commenting, "The way I understand it is, it’s mostly about the patents."

Asked about why Motorola was not included in this round of the Nexus lineup, he says that they have the chance to bid on each product just like the other Android partners without a featured product.  When it comes to choosing OEMs he says the variety is "not so much fairness as it is to sort of work with partners who happen to be in good “phase match” with us in what we’re trying to do."

Nexus family

After a frustrating stall in the tablet market, Google, much like Microsoft, is finally seeing fresh life.  Not content to take a second-seat to Apple, Inc. (AAPL) and second-place, Inc. (AMZN), Google is finally offering hot products at alluring prices.

Mr. Lagerling summarizes, "I'll admit we’re finally much more closer to our actual vision in the past year than we have ever been."

One key issue not touched upon in the discussion is a glaring weakness of the Android market when it comes to super-HD tablets like the Nexus 10 -- a lack of super-HD-resolution apps (Apple's own selection of "Retina" iPad apps, while far from the lower resolution selection, is industry leading).  Apps, of course, follow a Field of Dreams "if you build it, they will come" sort of trend, but for early adopters a smaller catalog may create headaches for Nexus 10 owners.

Sources: The NYT, Google

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RE: Great summation
By Reclaimer77 on 11/5/2012 4:07:44 PM , Rating: 2
As usual, you are vastly overstating an Android issue. If you actually believe "upscaled" apps are holding them back, as if the average consumer even knows what the hell that is, I have a bridge to sell you.

The Verge are a bunch of known Apple homers, so big shock they have that opinion, and even bigger shock (sarcasm) of you linking it.

When you have more than 1 phone and 1 tablet resolution to deal with, unlike Apple developers, obviously issues like these will come up. It's not some horrible all-condemning problem though.

RE: Great summation
By TakinYourPoints on 11/5/2012 9:38:14 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is that you wouldn't know what a good tablet platform is.

You've convinced yourself that a 2011 Kindle Fire is a "good tablet" and you clearly have blinders when it comes to the hardware and software superiority of the iPad, so how would you even know what software optimized for that platform is like?

Not optimizing for a tablet is one of several reasons why a cross-platform developer will have the inferior version on Android (the rest comes down to lower sales, piracy, crap app markets, OS fragmentation, the usual).

RE: Great summation
By Reclaimer77 on 11/6/2012 10:04:51 AM , Rating: 2
Unlike you I don't need to base all my knowledge on personal experiences, or "people I know" (something you do WAY too often). By making this about me and whatever tablets you think I own, this only shows the weakness of your argument.

In your mind an app cannot possibly be "good" if it's resolution upscales. Forgetting the fact that iOS had many of these apps when the iPad3 came out not running in it's native res, of course. Pretty sure not ALL iOS apps run in the iPad native res today. And you still herald it as the best "ecosystem". Again, double standard.

You're a known Apple homer here, and everything you say reflects that, TonyYourPoints.

RE: Great summation
By TakinYourPoints on 11/6/2012 4:03:37 PM , Rating: 2
This isn't about native res, this is about arrangement of the UI to be better suited for a big 10" screen (ie - multiple panes instead of a single column).

There is a huge difference between optimizing an app layout between a smartphone and tablet, and I think Google is doing a disservice to their platform by not incentivizing developers to properly format their UIs for a tablet. The result will be continued inferior apps, which in turn will be a hindrance to people buying them since the better apps will be on other platforms.

And yes, these stories from developers corroborate wide statistics. Bury your head in the sand, it doesn't change reality.

I just said "Google needs to encourage developers to make better tablet apps", and you're basically saying that people can be happy with something second rate because it isn't a problem.

I'm giving real constructive criticism and you're saying that a bad policy is perfectly acceptable. Why do you actively want your platform to be inferior?

RE: Great summation
By TakinYourPoints on 11/5/2012 9:54:01 PM , Rating: 1
If you actually believe "upscaled" apps are holding them back, as if the average consumer even knows what the hell that is, I have a bridge to sell you.

Of course consumers know the difference between a good app and one that is upscaled. The app market is one of the biggest reasons for the iPad's success. Tablets are app machines, and consumers know when a product has the apps that they want and that it works well on the hardware.

On a side note, a developer on another board I go to got a million downloads on iOS this week, hitting the top 25. Another has been in the top 10 for months now. They both have releases on Android, made easy by Unity, and they're moving less than 1/10th of the numbers on it.

Perhaps Android users don't care about apps so they don't understand why that matters to someone who would buy an iPad. Maybe they just like talking about how free and cool Android is rather than actually using it. I dunno, but developer profits and web traffic numbers combined with so many fandroid forum posts certainly seems to support this hypothesis.

RE: Great summation
By retrospooty on 11/6/2012 7:12:38 AM , Rating: 2
Nice microscopic analysis. LOL. This one app developer's experience is this... So here is a verdict.

You dont think your view on this is just a bit skewed toward app development do ya? I mean, I get that its important to you, but the disparity on the 2 platforms isnt much to consumers.

RE: Great summation
By TakinYourPoints on 11/6/2012 3:56:20 PM , Rating: 2
This one app developer's experience is this... So here is a verdict.

Pick any mobile developer who does cross-platform development and they'll tell you the exact same thing. I can pull experiences from over a dozen, and wide polls and sales figures will back it up just the same.

And yes, app development is important to me, this is why I use Windows and OS X and not desktop Linux.

Do people who buy Android tablets just surf the web and are content with halfass ports? Perhaps they should stop using Widnows and switch to Debian. They clearly don't need apps, a web browser should be enough for them.

Yes, apps are important. I can't believe this is even a point of discussion.

RE: Great summation
By retrospooty on 11/6/2012 5:32:41 PM , Rating: 2
Of course they are important. We have had this discussion before.

We arent talking aboout apps vs no apps. We are talking about whatever 800,00k apps on IOS vs 700,000 apps on Android. There are apps that do everything on both and do it all quite well. The difference isnt all that big. Its not that apps arent importaant, its that the SMALL difference in apps isnt as important as better features, better screens and more versatility. Get it?

RE: Great summation
By TakinYourPoints on 11/6/2012 7:01:03 PM , Rating: 2
The difference isn't apps versus no apps, it is about having the best versions of apps as well as apps better optimized towards the form factor (phone or tablet).

I never said it was all or nothing, its all about which one is better.

If getting the second or third best version of an app on the #2 development platform is a good trade for an SD card slot (forget about missing apps), then great. I've been on both sides and I know what I'd be giving up in terms of quality, support, and flexibility by going from the iPad to an Android tablet. Throw in the iPad's faster hardware and it is a really simple choice at the moment.

If Google encouraged developers to target tablets and made it easier for them to make a profit then there wouldn't even be a discussion because the Nexus 10 would have a comparable app market, but it doesn't.

RE: Great summation
By Rukkian on 11/6/2012 11:21:07 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, imo, the appstore is not a primary reason for low numbers or android tablets, it simply comes down to name recognition, as apple tablets have always been high quality hardware and displays, and many of the manufacturers tried to release lower quality tablets for the same money.

That just does not work when you don't have the cult following. Finally with the nexus line, you see a very nice tablet at a very competitive price, and the brand is growing. I think we are starting to see the change coming with android tablets finally taking off, which is what will get app developers to do more. They were stuck in a chicken or egg situation.

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs

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