Android’s 7-Inch Tablet Future

on June 27, 2012

It wasn’t a secret that Google was going to announce a 7-inch Nexus tablet made by Asus and running Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chipset. And announce it Google did yesterday to much applause and fan fare. As we and a great many anticipated the tablet is designed as pure media tablet rather than a general purpose tablet like the iPad. As we watched the demo it became clear the Nexus 7 is targeted right at the Kindle Fire and nothing else.

I have been thinking a lot about what Android’s future in tablets may hold and I believe we now have the answer. Android’s sweet spot for tablets may be 7-inch pure media and entertainment slates. These devices will be built and optimized specifically with entertainment not productivity in mind. They will also be very low cost and derive a significant amount of value from cloud services. This also fits right in line with Google branding their store “Play.”

This makes sense if you think about the fact that the most successful Android tablet to date, the Kindle Fire, is a 7-inch pure media tablet. With the iPad, and now on the eve of Windows 8 tablets all targeting the 9.7 to 10.1 tablet screen sizes with more general purpose tablet strategies, I anticipate the larger screen Android tablets to struggle.

Android has struggled as a tablet solution in the general purpose segment due to the immature nature of Google’s tablet ecosystem. Apple remains dominant in this area and it seems like many firms strategies are to avoid competing with Apple entirely. This is clearly the direction Google is taking with the Nexus 7.

With that context I want to point out two areas important for this segment. One that favors Amazon and one that favors the Nexus 7.

Cloud Services and Consumer Trust
The Kindle Fire commerce ecosystem both in terms of digital media and consumers trust in Amazon as a commerce vendor are key areas where Amazon has an advantage of the Google right now. Amazon has over 100 million credit cards of consumers on file who all trust Amazon as a vendor. I don’t believe Google has released how many accounts they hold but I guarantee you it isn’t nearly as many as Amazon, or Apple for that matter.

Amazon has a more mature ecosystem when it comes to digital media and consumer trust for commerce. This is an area Google is attempting to strengthen with the Nexus 7. During the announcement of the Nexus 7 the statement kept being made that the device was built for the Google Play store. Google is clearly hoping that this device will generate more trust for their commerce platform and strengthen their commerce ecosystem.

This is an area where Google 7″ tablets may have an advantage over the Kindle Fire. Google has not yet stated when or if the Nexus 7 will ever appear in retail but you know other OEM will come out with 7″ media tablets who will get them in retail.

Retailers have been understandably conscience of Amazon’s commerce strategy with the Fire being potentially disruptive to their own brick and mortar store strategy. If that trend continues you can imagine more retailers not carrying the Kindle Fire and filling that hole with other OEMs Android 7″ media tablets.

To the extent that retail will be important for this segment the advantage goes to Google in this area.

I am not sure the extent the tablet market is ready to segment into specialty tablets but if they keep their prices low and overall time investment low then I think they have a chance to become companion media devices.

Of course if Apple jumps into this segment with a 7″ tablet I will have to re-consider some positions I am taking currently. However, if Apple does this it will only validate the 7″ media tablet segment at which point I would expect OEM investments in the category to ramp extremely quickly.