The strategy behind the Nexus 7

The Nexus 7 I ordered for my wife last week arrived two days ago. That’s been enough time for Cathy and me to look it over closely and get a good feel for its capabilities. It’s a very interesting device not just for what it does but what it doesn’t do. There’s a strategy here, and as usual I think Google is playing a longer game than people looking at this product in isolation understand.

The Nexus 7 seems to me to be very obviously designed to be an inexpensive web terminal for use with home and small-business WiFi networks. Look at what’s missing: cellular modem, rear-facing camera, SD card. These are exactly the things you’d want in a road-warrior device intended to compete both at the high end of the cellphone market and against notebook/netbook PCs at their low end.

That having been said, the Nexus 7 does the limited job it’s designed for extremely well. It’s easy to configure, easy to use, and the audiovisual presentation is slick without being gratuitously flashy. We found the voice-search capability particularly effective and well integrated. We were able to watch a movie at our kitchen table (The Black Shield of Falworth, a classic piece of 1950s swashbuckler cheese) without lag, artifacts, or dropouts.

The device is selling like crazy and has spectacular buzz. After I had already privately decided to get Cathy one, Linus Torvalds gave it a public thumbs-up and I got completely unsolicited “buy one now!” raves from two friends of mine not previously noted for anything but jaded cynicism about the consumer-electronics gadget of the week. It is clear that Google and Asus have a mega-hit on their hands – analysts are already describing it as the Kindle-killer and I think there’s no hype at all in that assessment.

The really interesting question about the Nexus 7 is why it’s not a more ambitious device. It’s clear from looking at the components that Asus could have built a full-featured tablet that could compete head-to-head with the iPad 3, had Google wanted that; the obvious inference is that Google didn’t want it. Which is interesting and revealing.

What the Nexus 7 looks like to me is that it was designed to meet a specified price point rather than a specified feature set. It’s what you’d come up with if you told the engineering team “It’s gotta retail under $250 with tax and shipping – start with your dream tablet, cut out features that won’t fit that budget, and give me the best device that fits a plausible use case. Then we’ll design the marketing around that.”

What kind of product and market strategy does this fit? I don’t think that’s complicated. This is also exactly what you’d do if your goal were to disrupt the iPad’s market from the low end. You’d identify a large class of potential iPad customers and target their use case (home and small-business web terminal) with a device that’s a substantially better value for the dollar. The goal would be to play for the highest-volume segment of the market in order to put downward pressure on the iPad’s growth rate without challenging it directly, the latter being something Asus/Google may not be able to do yet.

Thus: IPS display nearly as good as the iPad’s (216ppi to 264pp). A replaceable battery, and a case with clip closures rather than glue. Google wants any random PC shop to be able to service this thing; it’s part of the value proposition. That aspect of the design also says to me that it’s aimed at low-cost fleet deployments. Certainly if I were a Fortune 500 IT manager I’d look hard at it as a way to lower my whole-lifecycle costs.

My prediction is testable. If it’s correct, the Nexus 7 won’t be a one-off. Within four months or so we’ll see a followon that ramps up the pressure – probably a 9-inch screen, possibly SD card support, and (crucially) price point no higher. I don’t think, along this line of attack, we’ll see a cellular modem being added any time soon; it’s in Google’s interest to avoid conflict with its smartphone partners, who have been doing a good job of pushing Android – that is, as opposed to its tablet partners who’ve been doing a relatively crappy one.

Remember Google’s long game. For Google’s advertising and content businesses to flourish, Google needs web access (and especially mobile web access) to be thoroughly commoditized, with nobody else in a position to collect rent on the path to your eyeballs. This is why they don’t need to make a dime of licensing income on Android – it’s a strategic play to prevent rent-seeking.

The design and positioning of the Nexus 7 is perfectly consistent with this goal. It’s a patient, well-thought-out play that will amortize fixed costs for other firms in Google’s partner network (Asus, Tegra, whoever’s ODMing the display) so that follow-on devices can issue at the same or a lower price point.

That result will be good for everybody. I don’t think I really need to tell the open-source community to get behind this product and push it, because the buzz says that’s already happening. It’s not the iPad-killer, but the road forward to something that will be is not difficult to discern.

UPDATE: Cathy’s thoughts on the device

UPDATE2: Contrary to myth, Tony Curtis does not at any point in The Black Shield of Falworth say “Yonder lies the castle of my fadda da king.” His New York accent is, however, hilariously obtrusive throughout the movie.

92 thoughts on “The strategy behind the Nexus 7

  1. I think the reason you won’t see a cellular modem any time soon is that including that would be pointless and silly. My phone has built in WiFi hotspot (android 4+) and I need to bring my phone everywhere anyway so why have yet another device that can connect to the carrier networks?

  2. Mine just arrived today, and I’m still exploring, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it is wicked cool. It seems to me to have just the right balance of features to be really useful, while having few enough to keep the costs down.

    I think it’ll be a bit longer than 4 months before we see a “Nexus9″ or “Nexus10″, but I do expect there will be one. I think the price point will be a bit higher than you suggest assuming such a device has the extra hardware (SD Card + camera). Rumor suggests that Google is selling the Nexus7 at very near cost, so they’d lose money if they added hardware without increasing the price. I don’t think they’re willing to do that.

    I do expect the margins to be just as razor thin on any such thing though.

  3. I think that in general Eric is right (particularly in his view that the business reason for the N7′s attributes is to service Google’s thirst for eyeballs).

    I have one minor caveat. I doubt they’ll price a Nexus 9 or 10 at the same price, because then they really look as though they were playing price games with the N7. But they will, I think, aim for a similar price point ($250, maybe), and perhaps cut the N7′s price by $20 or so when the bigger tablet hits the market.

  4. Very interesting. I paid $250 for a Nook Color for essentially the same use case (hacking it to run standard Android, without the B&N limitations). But the Nexus 7 would almost certainly have been more capable. While the Nook does the job, it can be slow and laggy even after I’ve removed many apps and frozen (via Titanium Backup Pro) others.

    If this product had existed, it almost certainly would have gotten the dollars that went to my Nook Color purchase. This spells very bad news for B&N, which is far more vulnerable than Amazon.

    PS: “…and as uusual I think Google is playing a longer game…” typo there, an extra “u” in “usual”.

  5. I have a Toshiba Thrive 10″ (with a really removable battery – no plug, much like a laptop, well non-Apple laptop). My main reason is it is a “minivan”, with a full sized USB and HDMI and SDXC (yes, with exFAT, my 1G portable drive works), it can replace a netbook. It isn’t a truck, but isn’t the sports car the iOS devices are. A sports car might “haul”, but is incapable of hauling.

    I didn’t know about the Nexus7′s somewhat more easily replaced battery. That gave me pause to check things out.

    I think the greater effect, at least initially, will be for the other Android Tablets to stretch to do at least what the Nexus can do. While keeping their differentiation. There is only one iPad. Tied to iTunes (Ugh!). And iCloud (Hail!).

    I have a single serious annoyance, complaint, problem with Android. I cannot do development natively, but I ought to be able to. When one of my apps hiccups, I should be able to bring up the DevEnv app and make a quick fix. I suppose I could attach my laptop and run the USB cable up to my Harley’s handlebars where my Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0 is to trace the rare HarelyDroid crash. But I shouldn’t have to.

    I do have a 4.0 iPod touch. I turn it on about once a month to update things. I don’t use it. It is horrid. Even jailbroken. I need to communicate, and even thought of using landline modem routines to establish a UART data link over the headset jack, but stopped. Why is apple locking out the serial port? And bluetooth SPP? Who cares. Android doesn’t. There is a bunch of opensource examples (HarleyDroid is someone else’s which I’m expanding upon). The Samsung’s larger screen makes things usable if not pleasant. And I don’t get the overheat icon.

    It is about ecosystems. Once people have a lot of Android, they will not want to switch to iOS, at least without a good reason. There are no I’m an Android, I’m an iPad commercials yet. If they appear, it might be Google producing them :).

  6. Apple themselves lend some credence to this; with the rumored iPad Mini coming down the pipe it’s clear they recognize the ~7″ space as a weakness. They will have to come in with an extremely seductive price to be able to put up anything like a reasonable defense.

  7. I tend to agree about the bottom up strategy. It seems to me that Google is doing a couple of things.

    Just as the first Android phones weren’t up to the iphone the first android tablets have been languishing in mediocrity. My opinion is the android phones in terms of features and the OS ease of use have finally surpassed the iP4S. I’ve got a 4S and an SGS3 to base my opinion on. The features I value are just better on the SGS3 than the 4S. That may change with the iphone5, but by that time Samsung and others will have the next best thing out too (Assuming a Sept./Oct. release date for the iphone5). I think Google is trying to have a similar cycle for the tablets. I also think they are trying to push their tablet partners to do better.

    I’m looking forward to watching it all pan out.

  8. >This spells very bad news for B&N, which is far more vulnerable than Amazon.

    Dang. I hadn’t thought it through before, but you’re quite right – the Nexus 7 drops B&N’s strategy for surviving the bookstorepocalypse right into the crapper. Short that stock, boys and girls!

    For those of you who got up on the slow side of the bed this morning, Amazon is less vulnerable because for them content delivery on a tied device is high-margin gravy rather than their core business. Amazon has other games to play if the Kindle pops like a balloon; B&N … doesn’t.

  9. I, too, was thinking in terms of a Nook (for me, the Nook Tablet), but when the Nexus 7 was announced, those plans went out the window.

    I have a first-generation Nook. I have the Nook app for Android. It works just fine. Read all my Nook books with it.

    So where do I get The Black Shield of Falworth?

  10. I have to disagree with your assessment that this is going to be a big hit in enterprise. I work for a company that, among other things, develops web apps and marketing materials for sales forces with tablets. By and large, the most popular model for this market is the 32gb 4g (Verizon) iPad, which retails for $729. The 4g connectivity is really important; in fact the newer iPads can act as WiFi hotspots for over 20 hours on a full charge.

    The second factor is that the bigger screen is better for sharing with a client. I personally prefer the smaller size of the N7 for personal use, but its not as great for a sales presentation.

  11. >So where do I get The Black Shield of Falworth?

    YouTube has it up for free.

    If you hit a version with bad artifacting, search again – the first instance I found looked and sounded like a capture from a crappy TV receiver. There are better ones.

  12. >By and large, the most popular model for this market is the 32gb 4g (Verizon) iPad, which retails for $729.

    See, there’s the opening. $500 off the unit cost is a lot.

    When you say “sales force” you’re implying the road-warrior usage pattern I was referring to previously. I agree the N7 isn’t a threat there, but there are lot of “enterprise” use cases other than that one. Inventory and dispatch in a large warehouse, for example. Live tech references for service people. Factory-floor stuff.

  13. The talk about the Nexus 7 scuppering B&N’s Nook strategy reminded me of this:
    http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/30/microsoft-barnes-noble-partner-up-to-do-battle-with-amazon-and-apple-in-e-books/ I wonder how that’s going to work out.

    I was tempted by the original Nook Color when it came out. Instead I wound up buying a pair of Touchpads in the firesale. HP’s idiocy, my gain. That hardware at that price was stupendous value. I run CM9, so yes this is Android hardware. The Nexus 7 is the first tablet that appears to be a good enough value that I’d be willing to purchase it as a replacement for a Touchpad (should one break). I remember just a few months back when people were claiming that a device that good at a price that low was impossible.

  14. I like the Nexus 7. It beats my Kindle Fire in nearly every category but price (mine was a $139 refurb) and access to Amazon Video. Worth the extra $60 not to be laggy but I’ve also had mine for 5 months.

    The bad part of the Nexus 7 is that Google just eliminated the mini tablet market for everyone but Amazon and Apple. Amazon because they’ll simply match the Nexus hardware next rev and don’t need to make any money off the tablet. Like Google they can sell a tablet for $0 profit and make money.

    The Kindle Fire 2 is likely based on the same Tegra as in the Nexus for the same price. That’s the only reason I’m holding off on the Nexus…to see what that’s like in the next couple months.

    Apple because they’ll charge $249 for their 8GB Wifi iPad mini and $399 for their 8GB + 4G iPad Mini and make decent money. Especially on the up-sell to 4G and more storage.

    Everyone else is pretty screwed. There’s no other 7″ android tablet worth buying at that price and if they add features to differentiate they quickly run into the $399 Apple price floor for the iPad 2 16GB

    For the 10″ tablets the Apple price floor is $399 as mentioned. If Google releases a Nexus 10 at $0 profit that’s not a whole lot of room for anyone else.

    Asus is kinda happy. They’re probably making as much money as Foxconn on every iPad if not a little more.

    If I were Samsung I’d be a little annoyed but what can you do? Their 7″ tablets weren’t selling all that great.

    B&N was screwed anyway with the Kindle coming out.

    I also expect Apple to release a 4″+ iPod touch update. A 4.3″ iPod Touch 4G would be very compelling for parents given the new Verizon and AT&T family shared data plans.

  15. I have a single serious annoyance, complaint, problem with Android. I cannot do development natively, but I ought to be able to. When one of my apps hiccups, I should be able to bring up the DevEnv app and make a quick fix.

    There’s AIDE (search that name on the market/Google Play), which lets you write, compile, and run Java-based Android apps right on your device. Git is integrated.

  16. 1.2Ghz Cortex A8 in the Huawei. Worse than the Kindle with a 1Ghz dual core A9. Slightly better than the Galaxy Tab 7.0. Much worse than the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus (1.2Ghz dual core A9).

    TANSTAAFL.

  17. Google will be giving a Nexus 7 to early adopters of the top tier Google Fiber service ($120/mo including TV and Internet) here in KC. Word is that they’ll include an app that makes it a remote control (which will no doubt be available for all Android devices, and probably for iPhone too if Apple doesn’t block it), and of course capable of streaming content as well.

    I will almost certainly be one of those early adopters, especially if the bill is itemized so as to indicate the Internet access as an item I can turn in to my employer, who is currently paying the Internet portion of my cable bill for a lot worse bandwidth and not-so reliable connectivity. If not, I’ll be getting the middle tier, which doesn’t include the TV, or, alas, the N7.


    Extremely OT: I just saw over at Instapundit that Ric Locke, who has commented here quite a bit over the years, has lost his battle with cancer.

  18. >Apple because they’ll charge $249 for their 8GB Wifi iPad mini and $399 for their 8GB + 4G iPad Mini and make decent money.

    Could be. But there’s a problem…it would put Apple in the position of chasing an entrenched market leader with a brand as golden as its own. And several months in which to already have won a following and shape expectations. And a price advantage.

    I don’t think Apple under Jobs would have wanted to do that, and I don’t think Apple under Cook will want to either. The difference is that Steve Jobs, in this situation, would pull some rabbit out of a hat that reframes everybody’s thinking; Tim Cook probably isn’t capable of that.

    If I were an Apple strategist, this is about when I’d slide sideways into a new market. But what’s it going to be?

  19. If it only creates a Google tablet market, B&N’s screwed.

    If this helps create a real Android tablet market in general, B&N’s okay. They’ll be able to stop OEMing hardware in favor of offering tablet makers a subsidy to ship the Nook app for Android on their devices in a factory-set prominent position. See also Netflix.

  20. Well, I couldn’t find the nice version of the movie, but I did watch Faderhead’s music video for _Fist Full of Fuck You_ and it looked very nice indeed. I’m not really surprised, since the machine was likely pretty heavily optimized to play stuff off of YouTube…so this was right in its wheelhouse.

  21. Do you have any feeling for a Truecrypt-type full-disk-encryption option for an Android tablet? I really hesitate to use anything as mobile as a tablet to store anything sensitive without being able to encrypt the FS.

  22. >If this helps create a real Android tablet market in general, B&N’s okay. They’ll be able to stop OEMing hardware in favor of offering tablet makers a subsidy to ship the Nook app for Android on their devices in a factory-set prominent position.

    Good point. Might not even take that; I think I saw someone on G+ claiming the N7 already has Kindle and Nook emulation apps.

  23. It is also a more resilient device than Apple iPads (see various drop tests on YouTube – a couple of scratches on the Nexus 7 – while the iPads end up utterly destroyed) – probably due to the lighter weight and polymer construction guarding the soft and crunchy parts.

    Full disclosure: I am an original iPad owner (pre-ordered and shipped on day 1) – this is the WIFI only model which I bumped up to 64GB. My iPad was purchased with the default rubberized slip cover case/tip stand – and I am extremely careful when I’m transporting it because the experiences of friends and YouTube videos showing shattered glass screens – and when contemplating the $750 price tag! I loved the device from day one; it contains my full and growing music collection, writings and scribbles, hundreds and hundreds of books, and various interesting things that in addition to the web and email access, really make it a portable terminal and scripting device (ssh client, python programming language etc). What I don’t like about it is the clunky iTunes interface for doing anything with files created or downloaded onto the device, the proprietary physical interface, the weight – which makes reading anything without a desk to prop it up on problematic, and the fact that most of the apps I’ve downloaded – while usable – don’t do what I really had in mind most of the time.

    So you see – I have an itch that I want to scratch – and preferably would like to share that with others. The $100 entry fee to deploy applications to a wider audience, and Apple’s potentially arbitrary filtration system has made me shy away from committing to that platform for anything casual or avant-guarde. Now enter the Nexus 7 – which seems to address most of those problems for me.

    One of the reasons I’ve shied away from Android all this time is the apparent slow performance of the OS and apps running on it (I’ve done my own head-to-head tests using my iPhone 4, and my friend’s Android phones and was not impressed). Not so, now with Jellybean/Butter and the right hardware. The ASUS hardware sports a Nvidia quad core CPU – and more importantly – an integrated 12 core GPU for smooth graphics (the Apple A5 processor in comparison is only a dual core with an integrated 4 core GPU – at least from a threading perspective the Nvidia has twice the power from a parallel processing perspective). This machine is made for gaming – which also means it is a perfect platform for more demanding applications of a more mundane nature.

    Add to that a less restrictive development and deployment environment, a standard USB interface and no need to go through a central store (unless you want to) or special application to up/down load applications and data, an uncluttered/unencumbered graphical interface (avoiding the slathering on of layers of branded interface that slows Android devices down even further on non-Google devices), and a weight that is way lighter and cheaper than my iPad – and more resilient to boot – and you have the perfect answer to my prayers.

    Linus’ and your endorsements add icing to the cake for me. Sadly, I only came to this conclusion AFTER Google Play sold out of the $249 models. I am waiting anxiously for the email notification that the dam holding back all of us water molecules has been opened once again.

  24. Oh – also one other comment along development lines – doing development for these tablets seems to me to harken back to a time when you had to think about your resources and use them sparingly.

    This can’t be a bad thing – as I think it can lead to another generation of great developers. But it does mean people are looking at application performance again as one of their key criteria for usability – and if you aren’t good at doing that (in addition to human factors, and artistic elements) – then you’re going to end up in the dustbin.

  25. Eric: “I think I saw someone on G+ claiming the N7 already has Kindle and Nook emulation apps.”

    /me points to his first comment.

    Yes, there are both Nook and Kindle apps for Android. The Nook app works for the most part, though search crashes immediately on typing the first character at it. I would expect the Kindle app to work well, too.

  26. This all does remind me of the launch of the Nexus One in 2010. That too changed the Android mobile landscape.

    The Nexus 7 looks like it can really start a competitive race between Android Tablets that will dethrone the iPad as the default tablet.

    Note that it also kills off the chances (were there any?) of Microsoft’s still unavailable Surface tablet.

  27. Could I suggest a new running title for the sequel:
    The tablet wars

    I am afraid that, as usual, the sequel will be less thrilling than the original ;-)

  28. >but there are lot of “enterprise” use cases other than that one. Inventory and dispatch in a large warehouse, for example. Live tech references for service people. Factory-floor stuff.

    Menu cards. Tablet menu cards are all the rage in the more expensive restaurants in China. Cuts the waiters out from the taking orders loop, they just deliver them.

    Only prob is, does not look readily embeddable -> theft prevention. How would you embed such a casing into a table?

  29. >Only prob is, does not look readily embeddable -> theft prevention. How would you embed such a casing into a table?

    You might not have to do that. It ought to be possible to have alarms go off if anyone tries to walk out the door with one or turn it off to avoid tracking. Also, it could be set to “phone home” if someone did manage to steal it and turned it on where it could reach a WiFi connection before wiping the device.

  30. I’d pay more for it if it had a card slot, or a version with more storage, but I won’t pay anything for it as is. I am away from wifi a lot, and if I can’t bring any significant amount of content with me, what’s the point? And even with wifi, not everything can be streamed online. The home movies I have on my ipad would more than fill the 16G version of this.

  31. Loss prevention on the tablets wouldn’t be that hard, I wouldn’t think. At least not for loss from patrons. Loss to employees would be harder.

  32. I wonder if the next Nook will be Android based since that part of the business is now in partnership with Microsoft.

    I have the Nexus 7, I like that I can purchase apps from Google, B&N, Amazon, and easily read epub books from Project Gutenberg. Disappointed in Google’s book reader, cannot find a way to take notes or lookup words in a dictionary. The Kindle app is by far the nicest.

    I think this is out of date, but interesting:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_Android_e-book_reader_software

  33. I don’t think either B&N or Amazon has anything to fear from tablet makers. They’re in the blade business, not the razor business. As long as their apps run on the devices they’ll still sell content.

  34. What the Nexus 7 looks like to me is that it was designed to meet a specified price point rather than a specified feature set. It’s what you’d come up with if you told the engineering team “It’s gotta retail under $250 with tax and shipping – start with your dream tablet, cut out features that won’t fit that budget, and give me the best device that fits a plausible use case. Then we’ll design the marketing around that.”

    In other words… pretty much what Apple does, except the price point is lower so they can include less, and they don’t have anywhere near the command of the supply chain that Apple does, so they can include even less.

    Dang. I hadn’t thought it through before, but you’re quite right – the Nexus 7 drops B&N’s strategy for surviving the bookstorepocalypse right into the crapper. Short that stock, boys and girls!

    Don’t shed too many tears for BN. They’re going to failed-company heaven — acquired by Microsoft.

  35. Bob: Your comment has me thinking…I can’t speak to Amazon, as there’s a lot more to that story, but as far as B&N goes: Could it be that the Nook hardware is there mainly to lend credibility to their e-book efforts? If the Nexus 7 wipes away the Nook as a reader (and it won’t do that for a while yet; the Nook Simple Touch with backlight is probably a better pure reader platform), how much will that hurt B&N long-term? In this light, it’s worth noting that the Nook is an epub-based platform, an open (FSVO “open” > Kindle) document standard. I suspect that’s no accident.

  36. @Jay Maynard

    The Kindle file format is merely MobiPocket with a special DRM. MobiPocket is an extension of PalmDoc.

    The file format specifications are available with a little digging.

  37. >(and it won’t do that for a while yet; the Nook Simple Touch with backlight is probably a better pure reader platform)

    Likely this is true, but I’m not sure how much it helps B&N. Most people have only a limited willingness to carry around multiple similar gadgets when one of them can do all of their jobs, even if using the the all-in-one device means taking a bit of an ergonomic hit.

    The right question to ask is whether the Nook is enough better than the N7 that a user with both of them will keep using it.

  38. @bret “I think the reason you won’t see a cellular modem any time soon is that including that would be pointless and silly”

    1) wifi hotspots on your phone kill battery life quickly
    2) there is a lot more friction involved in using phone as a wifi hotspot

    I have tried both, I much prefer the instant-on effect of having cellular built in

  39. Whether the Nook Simple Touch is that much better than the N7 is a question I’m not qualified to comment on, since I don’t have the Simple Touch. I would suspect the answer will revolve around battery life. After all, if your N7 will only run 9 hours on battery on a 12-hour airplane flight, an airplane reading addict like me is going to have a basic issue there…

    Now, how often battery life becomes that kind of a problem will vary from one person to the next. For me, it’s nonzero but not that big either.

    Even so, as I said, the question is how much that will hurt B&N. I suspect they’ll keep the Nooks as a boutique product, possibly opening the Nook Tablet to be a full-fledged Android tablet instead of their weird locked-down version, and consider any Nook profits as gravy. That model may well be sustainable for them as validation for their ebook sales. “Here, buy our ebooks! Read them on your computer, on iOS, or Android. Don’t have anything portable? Here, buy a Nook.”

  40. @ESR – Not that Apple is perfect by any stretch (or even good in many areas), but I’m a bit perplexed that you don’t seem to be deeply concerned by Google dipping their toes into the authoritarian end of the government pool over the last few weeks. First they banned all guns and related items from Google Shopping (try it, if you haven’t yet). Next, they’re holding a summit with various government leaders on how they can use their immense supply of data to help fight the drug war. I’m usually not the first to be up in arms (metaphorically speaking) over things like this, but Google is certainly a special case considering that they probably have more and better information on people than Facebook. Frankly, I don’t think Google’s interests are well-aligned with consumers. Their entire revenue model is based on collecting data on us. If they want to put better ads on on our search results, I don’t see that as a big negative – in fact, it can even occasionally be helpful. But they’ve been stepping outside of those bounds, and outside of those bounds there isn’t much behavior that falls under the alleged “don’t be evil” motto. Apple does the occasional evil and / or stupid thing, but at the end of the day they know who their customer is. Google has no such constraint – their customers are advertisers and now apparently governments.

  41. >First they banned all guns and related items from Google Shopping (try it, if you haven’t yet).

    I am actually concerned about this. I just haven’t figured out what I can do about it yet.

  42. E-Ink readers vs LCD tablets… I’ll chime in here, since I have both.

    7″ Kindle Touch (an e-ink reader) is wonderful for reading, far better than any tablet. E-ink is so much easier to read that it is not even a contest, but it is especially easier to read outdoors, where sunlight just washes away LCD screens. Even with the nice screen of the iPad, your eyes get more tired while looking at the screen than any e-ink display. Given the choice, both my wife and I will always read e-books on the Kindle Touch over our iPad, any day of the week.

    The battery life of the Kindle Touch is great too (we charge ours only every week or two), but that’s not the reason it gets used so often. The paper like display is the real reason it gets used as much, if not more, than our iPad.

  43. Mr. Maynard:
    > The right question to ask is whether the Nook is
    > enough better than the N7 that a user with both
    > of them will keep using it.

    I move around a lot, and intend, if I can swing it I intend to spend a LOT more time traveling over the next couple decades (mostly because I don’t figure I’ll be able to retire *ever*, and I’d like to see some more of the world before I get to broken down). Because of the traveling I’m trying to get my IT load down.

    To avoid turning this into a PH.D dissertation, my Kindle non-android device will always be part of that load. Probably two (wife and I). They’re non-backlit, which makes it (IMO) easier to read for hours. I carry a small headlight, which I would carry anyway, that I can use to read in the dark (and that uses standards AAA batteries), but to have a device the size of the kindle that can *literally* go for weeks without recharging, and is light enough to hold up for reasonable lengths of time.

    I don’t know about the Nook, but the Kindle is enough better at it’s special task than any general purpose computing device, just like my ESEE is a MUCH better knife than anything in a multi-tool.

    @Mr. Raymond:
    > I am actually concerned about this. I just haven’t
    > figured out what I can do about it yet.

    http://www.linuxfordevices.com/c/a/News/Golden-Delicious-Openmoko-GTA04/

    http://shr-project.org/trac

    http://projects.goldelico.com/p/gta04-rootfs/

    You’re a programmer.

    Code.

    Disrupt.

    Rinse, lather, repeat.

  44. nexus has a tegra soc, aka nvidia. as far as I can tell tegra 3 drivers are a closed binary blob. last year nvidia dropped support for tegra 2 leaving folks high and dry. not a good track record. so I’ll keep avoiding nvidia products.

  45. >You’re a programmer. Code.

    It isn’t even remotely that simple. What really makes Google powerful isn’t code, it’s their monster capital investment in data centers and really large databases. This is a kind of advantage that is not easily attacked with better implementations of existing algorithms, or even new algorithms.

  46. @esr
    Even more, Google are a service company. They perform work for their users. They can do without license income and could even survive without secret sause..

  47. Also, it could be set to “phone home” if someone did manage to steal it and turned it on where it could reach a WiFi connection before wiping the device.

    http://preyproject.com/

  48. I doubt Barnes & Noble cares if their tablet sinks without a race. Last I heard they were losing money in the thing and making it up in ebooks. Their reader software is available on the Play market. And since they use the industry standard epub format…

  49. @Ian Argent:

    > I doubt Barnes & Noble cares if their tablet sinks without a race.

    Agreed. The Nook was an (exceptionally inspired) answer to the Kindle. B&N doesn’t care who owns the tablet market, as long as it isn’t Amazon, just as Google didn’t care who owned the phone market as long as it wasn’t Apple.

    Good integration is both sexy and useful, and (especially combined with patent misuse) can provide a huge barrier to competition. But the tide is turning somewhat, I think. More people are realizing they don’t want a single-source consumption device.

  50. The question is, can the ebook market support 3 major marketplaces, in addition to the publisher’s own sales? And if it can’t, will Google care to lock B&N out?

    Full disclosure, I don’t like either the Kindle software or Google Books. I haven’t tried Nook. My e-reading is on the superb reader ASUS provides with the TF101 – anyone know whose software that is?

  51. I’m interested to read this review but I don’t think Asus really needs much help from Google in developing larger tablets. They already have the Transformer line which is just about everything I want in a smallish device. The only drawback is I can’t put it in a pocket.

    The Transformer plus keyboard (I have a TF300) has awesome battery life that is entirely adequate to read for most/all of a transcontinental flight – I’ve done so from California to Tokyo. From 95%+ charged in LAX it lasted me the flight and the 1.5 hour train ride to my hotel in Tokyo and still had some juice left.

    The keyboard also has a proper USB slot so you can connect almost anything to it – e.g. a 1Tb hard drive. And the processor is nice and zippy. It comes with 32GB of flash and and slot to put more in.

    I have a couple of gripes with it. Not way to swap out the battery and I’d like to run a real linux on it not Android because the android environment juts doesn’t work properly for things like VNC. But neither of these are critical and I suspect the latter will be solved (may even have been solved).

    Asus also provide their own cloud sync/storage thing. Apart from some curious English here and there in the instructions this seems to work as well as ubuntu one, google drive, dropbox etc

  52. > What really makes Google powerful isn’t code, it’s their monster capital investment in data centers and really large databases. This is a kind of advantage that is not easily attacked with better implementations of existing algorithms, or even new algorithms

    Google is evil, but open source android is good. What is most evil about Google, apart from knowing everything about you and telling governments, is that Google Marketplace, Google Wallet, like Ebay and all the rest, are highly centralized, highly subject to government power, and, in the case of Google, eager to obey the laws that government does not yet dare pass, but would very much like to.

    Thus, the attack needs to be on centralized market places, not android.

    The value added by these centralized market places that the center curates people’s reputations, which means that they get to charge you for the value provided by your reputation.

    The cure is a decentralized market place, in which reputation resides in distributed information about successful transactions linked to public keys, a market place that will initially be primarily used for activities that are illegal or severely disreputable. Experience has, however demonstrated that any user interface that exposes the key, or the key fingerprint, or requires the user to explicitly manage keys, causes the average user to run screaming, and the average geek to rapidly lose interest. Thus designing the architecture and public user interface of such a beast is hard. The problem is not programming it, but knowing what to program. I am writing up some ideas on this problem, but not publishing them yet, because what I have so far would be vulnerable to some forms of sibyl attack, and not really friendly enough to ordinary users.

  53. @ESR

    Off topic:

    Eric, do you know of a DRM-free way of buying/obtaining (happy to pay) your books in epub format? I see that they are on Kindle and that you have provided HTML versions, but I have yet to stumble on the magic DRM-free epub combo that hits the e-book sweet spot for me.

    Any pointers would be much appreciated.

  54. >Eric, do you know of a DRM-free way of buying/obtaining (happy to pay) your books in epub format?

    I haven’t looked into it. Google searches don’t turn up good hits?

  55. >I haven’t looked into it. Google searches don’t turn up good hits?

    Millions of hits, but it’s hard to wade through them all. Any search for for ” epub” seems to render Google a mostly-useless sea of spammy treacle.

    I am sure there are good versions out there, but I guess it’s just a case of sifting through the crap. I thought you might know of a kosher source. When I find one I’ll let you know.

  56. Ah, bugger. WordPress stripped out some of my message.

    Any search for for ” epub” seems to render Google a mostly-useless sea of spammy treacle.

    Originally read:

    Any search for for ” *open angled bracket* well-known book title *close angled bracket* epub” seems to render Google a mostly-useless sea of spammy treacle.

  57. >Have you ever considered hosting an ‘official’ version on your site?

    There’s my web version, of course. Do you mean to suggest some other format?

  58. epub and/or mobipocket – is there a way to generate one or the other of these from the docbook source?

  59. @Random832
    Libre/OpenOffice has a writer2epub plugin. There are also docbook plugins.

    Convert to ODT and ithen to epub

  60. @Winter
    > You want to reinvent bitcoin and the Silk road?

    I want to make bitcoin properly anonymous, and provide properly curated reputations for the silk road. The service that ebay provides is well curated reputations.

  61. @JAD
    Then you have your work cut out for you.

    Cryptographic payment systems are areas of active research. That is tough work.

  62. @esr

    >There’s my web version, of course. Do you mean to suggest some other format?

    Yes, sorry. I meant specifically epub. Seems to have emerged as the standard now, I think.

  63. For folks that dislike the non-swappable battery I have always found one of the inexpensive external battery packs on Amazon to be much better than swappable batteries because I can use it to recharge/power any USB powered device (lights, phones, tablets, etc).

  64. @lodragon

    So you see – I have an itch that I want to scratch – and preferably would like to share that with others. The $100 entry fee to deploy applications to a wider audience, and Apple’s potentially arbitrary filtration system has made me shy away from committing to that platform for anything casual or avant-guarde. Now enter the Nexus 7 – which seems to address most of those problems for me.

    It strikes me that most well written apps make it though Apple’s gateway reasonably easily and you can make more money on iOS than Android unless you go the freemium/ad route.

    If you’re only doing open source apps then yes, android is the way to go. Otherwise, I prefer iOS from an app development POV.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/appsblog/2012/jul/23/dead-trigger-android-free-piracy?newsfeed=true

    Me, I’ve been playing around with Mono and about to dump native Android development. Putting my core business logic in C# and then doing native UIs in C# seems like a better way to go. Then I can go either Android or iOS but I’ll have to pay for the requisite mono dev kits (a few hundred bucks each).

  65. Walked into my local Sam’s Club last Monday and picked the 7 up. Great feel, fast, light. Replacing my Nook. Nook is a reader that I used as a tablet. Switching that around now.
    My 3rd android device. Returned the first one because it was painfully slow as is the nook.
    It does need a 4g connection if it is to survive the corporate world.

  66. My current view of Google is that they are becoming evil, they just haven’t fully achieved it yet.

    I’m interested in Android because it’s the *most* open system, but you appear to need a Google account to even activate an Android phone (I admit I didn’t spent a lot of time trying to work around it though.) As much as I don’t care for Google knowing, indexing and sharing my information, I *really* don’t care for it restricting my information or ways of working. No guns on Google shopper? That’s new to me, but I did hear they were going to start charging for listings. When they changed Reader to restrict sharing (to only G+) it became much useful for me. As they get bigger and more mature they’re moving from “disrupt and innovate” to “consolidate and monetize” — and their interest diverge from mine. I see enough divergence that I’m not personally long on Google (though they’ll likely make money for a good while — I’m not good at picking stocks).

    Personally I’ve never published a GMail address and I run my own mail server — because I never did trust any company to be my single point of access to a critical resource — particularly communication.

  67. @Dewey Sasser I’m not aware of any android phones which *require* a google account to use them. Things like market and gmail won’t work, obviously. Disclaimer: I have only used the developer phones.

  68. This is a reminder that — irrespective of whether you intended to distribute them illegally — removing the DRM from an ebook, with one narrow exception, is still a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and illegal under U.S. federal law.

    It is also illegal to link to anticircumvention devices such as the de-DRM plugins above.

  69. There’s no link to any anti-circumvention devices above, there’s a link to a webpage. If you follow the links on that webpage . . . you still only wind up at webpages, not any anti-circumvention devices.

    However, yes, if you live in the US or another country that has adopted similarly stupid and fascist laws supported by Apple and thus Jeff Read, you could get in trouble for removing DRM with devices that aren’t, you know, actually linked to above.

  70. @Jeff Read:

    Not that I have any DRMed eBooks, but if I did, and if I removed the DRM, and if somebody actually found out (how? BSA Stasi raid on my home? Guilty-until-proven illegally obtained evidence that I downloaded a DRM cracker and also bought a particular ebook?), then (a) the criminal provisions don’t apply because I didn’t do it for money, so I don’t have to worry about the prosecutor “finding” child porn if I don’t cooperate or anything like that; and (b) I’d be happy to go to court for the civil aspect of it.

    Of course, I live in Texas, and the natives are starting to get restless about stupid laws:

    http://deadlinelive.info/2012/06/21/who-told-these-people-about-jury-nullification-jurors-voice-thoughts-on-texas-drug-law-in-court/

    YMMV.

  71. Not sure where to mention this, but this blog post seemed the most appropriate:

    http://gigaom.com/apple/more-secrets-revealed-galaxy-tabs-uninspiring-u-s-sales-numbers/

    The article above takes tablet sales figures, as gathered by IDC, and compares them against actual Samsung sales figures, provided to the court as part of the lawsuit between Apple and Samsung.

    The sales numbers are really bad compared to the IDC sales figures, for any time frame. For example, IDC said that Samsung sold 1 million tablets in Q4 of 2010, but the court documents showed only 262,000 tablets sold. In Q1 of 2012, IDC reported sales of 2.3 million Samsung tablets, vs court documents that showed only 37,000 tablets sold.

    I don’t want to get into a religious war of Android vs iOS tablets. The main point here is that IDC sales figures cannot be trusted, as they have been shown to be wildly incorrect, when compared to court ordered audits.

  72. hsu:

    > The main point here is that IDC sales figures cannot be trusted,

    I’m not sure they’re that bad. I have no reason to disbelieve that they sold a million globally while selling 262K here, or even that last quarter, they sold 2.3 million while only selling 37K here.

    This is a different market than the rest of the world in a lot of ways, as shown by Apple’s < 5% share in a couple of western European countries.

  73. @Patrick Maupin,
    Here’s a Digitimes analysis of tablet sales in China:
    http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20120808VL200.html

    Out of 2.34 million tablets sold, Samsung only sold 3.59% or 84,000 units, during Q2 of 2012 in China. Now then, the Digitimes analysis could be wrong (and probably is wrong), but it meshes better with Samsung’s own internal audit numbers than it does with the IDC numbers.

    Basically, alternate sources strongly suggest an error in the IDC analysis.

  74. @hsu:

    > Here’s a Digitimes analysis of tablet sales in China

    Yes but the only IDC numbers I found were here:

    http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS23632512

    and they don’t break it down by country. It’s not surprising for Apple to do well in China, since nobody really needs a tablet, and if you can afford one, you probably want to get an Apple one to prove you can afford one. This will change dramatically over the next few quarters, I think, but for now, in tablets, Apple is actually doing better in China than they are globally, and Samsung is not doing well at all there:

    http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2012-08/07/content_15650809.htm

    Samsung tablets apparently doing quite well in South Africa:

    http://mybroadband.co.za/news/gadgets/47084-ipad-versus-android-tablets-surprising-stats-for-sa.html

    and Samsung smartphones are kicking ass in Europe and Australia (both markets that can easily afford tablets as well, if they like Samsung):

    http://www.kantarworldpanel.com/global/News/Summer-success-for-Samsung
    http://www.marketingmag.com.au/news/android-dethrones-iphone-as-most-owned-smartphone-platform-in-australia-17252/

    So it’s easily conceivable that Samsung is selling most of its tablets elsewhere than the US or China.

  75. I’m curious about people’s opinions on the one thing *I* would have liked to see, not only in this, but in my EVO4G:

    Why isn’t anyone putting a damn IR emitter in the top?

    Is the fix in from Crestron?

  76. Note to Cathy: yes, the charging port is (almost certainly) MicroUSB; that’s the New Industry Standard for charging things that will charge at 5VDC @ (500-2500mA).

    And as for Google Play: I simply haven’t given Google my card number, I do not have a Google wallet account, and I plan to keep it that way. If I can’t a) get it for free, or b) talk the dev into sending me an unlock APK for a PayPal payment, owel.

  77. Re: making these things embedded: what you need for that is the ability to *password protect the settings*, particularly the wifi settings, possibly combined with a screenlocker app triggered by the expected wifi not being available.

    That wouldn’t necessarily stop rooters (unless you could turn on boot-locking at your own option), but it would certainly solve the casual theft problem.

  78. The iPad mini has just been released. There goes the oxygen from Nexus 7′s market. So much for that strategy…

  79. How did you get past the request for a google account/password and a wifi connection? Since I got this two days ago on Christmas I haven’t been able to get into it to see anything without it constantly looking for a wifi connection. What good is it? And when it can’t find wifi it shuts off. Stupid thing isn’t even heavy enough for a doorstop.

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