Google unveils 7-inch tablet and Android upgrade

Google yesterday announced its first tablet product, the Nexus 7, fitted with a powerful quadcore processor and specifically designed to work with the expanding Google Play, the online media and apps site.

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Google yesterday announced its first tablet product, the Nexus 7, fitted with a powerful quadcore processor and specifically designed to work with the expanding Google Play, the online media and apps site..

Unveiled at the Google I/O conference in San Frncisco, the tablet has a 7-inch diagonal screen, with 1280 x 800 high definition display, with a pixel density of 216 pixels per inch (compared to Apple's Retina Display on the new iPad of 264 pixels per inch). It's powered by a four-core Tegra 3 processor, including a 12-core graphics processing unit.

Forrrester analyst James McQuivey said  “Learning a lesson from Amazon, Google can see that the only way to beat the premium-worthy iPad is to go for the millions of customers who are ready for smaller and cheaper tablets and then grow those customers into more Android powered devices and, more importantly, Google-powered services like Google Play and whatever paid video experience YouTube will likely create.

"That range of services will be the secret to stitching together this rag-tag fleet of Android gadgets into a platform that can compete with Apple for minutes of user's attention rather than premium device dollars.”

The tablet is equipped with the Google Chrome web browser, Google Currents, which is a mobile magazine format for news feed with integrated Google Translate. The tablet has a front-facing 1.2 megapixel camera, Bluetooth, a micro USB port and near field communication.

The Nexus 7 is priced at $199 in the US and will be available in the UK next month. Google is offering several movies, books and complimentary magazine subscriptions as a starting package.

It runs the next Android version, Android 4.1, dubbed Jelly Bean. One of Jelly Bean's key features is Project Butter, a comprehensive effort by Google to boost Android performance and response time by increasing the frame rate to 60 fps. The demonstration showed fast, smooth animations, and the tablet's CPU automatically speeds up when it detects an onscreen touch.

The Android notification system has been revamped. Alerts now expand and shrink automatically as they appear. You can see a preview of an MMS image, and view it in full size all inside Android's notification area.

Also part of Jelly Bean is Google Now, with a redesigned user interface for your mobile searchers. It now features, like Apple's Siri, a very realistic synthesized voice interface to respond to search requests or remind you of appointments. But Google Now blends this with a predictive capability: it uses data about your location, the date, from your contacts and prior searches to proactively recommend an alternative way home if your usual commuting route is congested. And the app will verbally update you on new offers or changes as you walk past restaurants or retails stores.

Jelly Bean will appear first on the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S and Xoom devices in mid-July. The SDK is available for developers now as part of preview.

Google also unveiled its first consumer electronics product, called Google Q, a ball-shaped Android computer that Google calls the first social media streaming device. Controlled by Android tablets or smartphone, Google Q has high-definition interfaces to plug directly into speakers and flatscreen TVs. It's designed specifically to exploit the content available through Google Play, the online market for Android content and apps, so you can't stream audio or video from your Android tablet or smarphone, for example.

It has a micro HDMI output, an HDMI cable, optical audio port, Ethernet, and speaker connections; an integrated 25-watt amplifier, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC.

In a demonstration, one user's Google Play library of music and video is displayed on a TV screen. It streams an audio track to a set of speakers in a selected room, in this case the living room. Nexus Q is a "cloud-connected jukebox" - a group of people can add music tracks from their own Google Play library to a shared queue, from which it can stream to the living room speakers. Google Q ships in July, with pre-orders staring today.