As expected, Google on Wednesday announced a $199, 7-in. tablet called Nexus 7 that will run on Android 4.1, a.k.a. Jelly Bean.
Google described the tablet as principally a conduit for Google Play, its cloud-based repository for Google apps and movies, books and other content. Nexus 7 is "built for Google Play," said Hugo Barra, product management director for Android at Google.
At Google I/O, its annual developer conference, Google also introduced a spherical Android-based media player called Nexus Q, which is designed to receive music and other content from Android smartphones and tablets and distribute it over home stereos and TV screens.
Google Play will launch on the home screen of the Nexus 7, and people who purchase the new tablet will get a $25 credit toward Google Play content, such a music, e-books and movies. The Nexus 7 screen features 1280-x-800-pixel resolution, which is good for watching movies, playing games and viewing other content, Barra said.
Google also listed a series of improvements that are included in Android 4.1, including paid app encryption to help developers protect their intellectual property and an on-device speech recognition engine that eliminates the need for speech input to work over a wireless connection.
Jelly Bean will also ship in the Galaxy Nexus and Motorola Xoom smartphones in mid-July and will be available as open source at that time, according to Google. A developer blog on the improvements was posted at the same time that Android 4.1 was announced on stage during the Google I/O opening keynote.
In a side-by-side demonstration of a device running Android 4.1 and a device running Android 4.0 during the keynote, Google demonstrated that Jelly Bean features a smoother and more responsive user interface than its predecessor, which is known as Ice Cream Sandwich and was launched last October.
Given the price and focus on content streaming from Google Play, analysts said the Nexus 7 tablet will primarily serve the same audience as the Amazon Kindle Fire, a $199, 7-in. device that Amazon is expected to update in July.
Google didn't offer many details about how it developed the tablet or whether it relies on Nvidia's Kai reference design, a means of holding down costs without sacrificing performance.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.