Theirs is Smaller

I’m so fed up with all the stupid crap floating about regarding 7” tablets and new iPads that I just gotta say something.

All Hail The Nexus 7

First off, I think the Nexus 7 is amazing, for a number of pretty obvious reasons - the thing is reported to have a decent build quality, an above average user experience and has a killer price, all of which, when put together, are news in the Android tablet realm.

It deserves to have more than a measure of success, even though, as Gruber points out, Apple is likely to beat everyone else to the punch outside the US (and they’ll probably enjoy just as much continued success even if they don’t do a 7” tablet).

However, Google is still lacking in global savvy. Granting that content deals are still stuck in the Stone Age and that they actually can’t roll out all the Play services worldwide strictly due to licensing deals, they’ve gone and done another US-only hardware launch, thereby painting their market penetration into a corner.

Whereas Apple is now the world’s most powerful logistics machine (replacing Nokia in the top spot) and can ship whatever they manufacture (regardless of size) worldwide, Google will have only limited volume (and they aren’t in the hardware business, so they won’t ramp up anytime soon).

Which is just sad. It means that the Nexus 7 will be hard to get and won’t drive nearly as much new application development as a new iPad (which would be just the same as the “old” one), and, in turn, also means that there won’t be enough competition in the market.

Amazon might step in eventually, and I’m sure we’ll see plenty of Nexus lookalikes in a few months (in time for the holiday season), but I just don’t see major volume sales coming out of any of it.

The Form Factor Is Sound

As to form factors, I have my own opinion - which is not likely to be most people’s, but which is already public - 7” is perfect for content consumption, and I like it so much that I got a Nook Color and hacked it.

Over the past few months, a usage pattern has emerged: I use my iPad as I would ordinarily use my laptop (for writing, doing e-mail and coding on remote machines) and pick up the 7” tablet for catching up on news and reading e-books (and I read a lot of e-books).

Both of them fit in a bag that is half the size of my laptop’s. And I’ve felt tempted to take only the 7” tablet with me now and then (but only for leisure).

So yes, I think there is a market for 7” tablets. I don’t think they need to have mobile connectivity (tethering to a phone is trivial these days) nor that the ergonomics are there to get actual work done (because, unlike on the iPad, the on screen keyboards are too cramped), but as a recreation device, I think they hit a sweet spot.

And that they hit it pretty hard - more so if manufacturers are willing to cut margins (which they seldom are - the Nexus 7 is pretty much a “mindshare” earner, not a profit one).

Furthermore, given that I’m not a platform zealot and actually like Android tablets (phones are another matter entirely)1, I’d very much like to get a Nexus 7, if Google would let me. I really shouldn’t spend cash on more gadgets, but it would cost me only a little more than the Nook did almost a year ago, so it is actually cheaper in comparison.

Apple might disagree with all of the above. Or they might agree and take the wraps off something. Quite honestly, I don’t care about the speculation - all that will matter, in the end, are operational results, and they probably don’t need to bother to stay ahead in the game.

To me, the real issue is long term value, and in that regard, the jury’s still out - even though I, personally, think the Nexus 7 has a rosy future ahead of it.

  1. I’ve actually been tinkering with Android on a very specific phone and liking it, but more in a technical perspective (I’ve also been doing Android builds of my own for a few devices). More on that later if I have time. ↩︎

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