Google unveils $199 tablet, Jelly Bean OS and Nexus Q multimedia player

As expected, Google on Wednesday announced a $199, 7-in. tablet called Nexus 7 that will run on Android 4.1, dubbed Jelly Bean.

Built with Asus, the tablet can be ordered starting today on Google Play,and will ship in the U.S. and three other countries in mid-July, Googlesaid.

Google described the tabletas principally a conduit for Google Play, its cloud-basedrepository for Google apps and movies, books and other content. Nexus 7is “built for Google Play,” said Hugo Barra, product managementdirector for Androidat Google.

At Google I/O, its annual developerconference, Google also introduceda spherical Android-based device called Nexus Q that will work in homesto distribute music and other content over stereos and displays withcontrols from Android smartphonesand tablets.

Google Play will launch on the home screen of the new tablet and buyerswill get a $25 credit toward Google Play content, such a music, e-booksand movies. The Nexus 7 screen has a 1280 x 800 resolution, useful inwatching movies, games and other content, Barra said.

Google also listed a series of improvements in Android 4.1, includingpaid app encryption to help developers protect their intellectualproperty and an on-device speech recognition engine that eliminates theneed for speech input to work over a wireless connection.

Jelly Bean coming in July
Jelly Bean will also ship in theGalaxy Nexus and Motorola Xoomsmartphones and as open source in mid-July, Google said. A developer blogon the improvements was posted at the same time that Android 4.1 wasannounced on stage at the Google I/O opening keynote.

One feature of Android 4.1 that Google demonstrated during the keynotewas a smoother and more responsive user interface, with a side-by-sidedemonstration with a device running Android 4.0, also called Ice CreamSandwich, which launched last October.

Given the price and focus on content streaming from Google Play,analysts said the Nexus 7 tablet will principally serve the sameaudience as the Amazon Kindle Fire, a $199, 7-in.device Amazon isexpected to update in July.

Google didn’t offer many details about how it developed the tablet orwhether it relies on Nvidia’s Kaireference design, a means for keeping down costs whilekeeping up performance.

Matt Hamblen coversmobile and wireless, smartphones and otherhandhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt onTwitter at @matthamblenor subscribe to Matt’sRSS feed. Hisemail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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