Google Floods the Market with Hardware
by Josh Wolonick, Minyanville staff writer
In what was likely an accident, Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) revealed the specs and images of the new Nexus 7 tablet early Wednesday morning, only hours before Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) own announcement about the device. The tablet was made available for pre-order but was later not available for purchase and instead labeled "Coming Soon." By then, tech sites all over the Web were saturated with details about the new tablet: It would have a 7-inch screen with the capacity for input from 10 fingers at a time and a crystal clear resolution of 1,920 by 1,200 pixels; a 5-megapixel camera; a long-lasting (9-hour) battery; an incredibly thin 8.65 mm body, and a starting price of $229 for the 16 GB model. That's $30 more than the price of the last Nexus tablet, but still a whole $100 less than Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) comparable iPad Mini. In fact, the new Nexus 7 will have a higher screen resolution and weigh less than the iPad Mini.
Adding to the fervor about Google's new hardware, the company also unveiled a new device called Chromecast, a $35 USB stick that will allow computers or tablets to stream TV, videos, photos, or really any content to a monitor. At the San Francisco unveiling event for the new device, titled "Breakfast With Sundar Pichai" (Pichai is the head of Android and Chrome at Google), the executives said that only 15% of people know how to send content from the Internet, tablets, or computers to a TV screen. The Chromecast is designed to address that need at a reasonable price.
Obviously it was a big day for Google hardware, but all the news also revealed a fairly stark difference between Apple and Google when it comes to new devices. The Internet is abuzz about the new Nexus 7, how it will be an iPad killer, how it will do this and do that, and about the Chromecast and how it will provide the boost Google needs to move more successfully into the living room. In the other corner of the tech-giant ring is Apple, and here, our speculations are hazier: Will there actually be an iWatch? Will there actually be an iTV? When will the iPad 5 ship?
All this being said, Apple was the dominant force in smartphones and tablets long before Google entered the hardware game with such zeal. Google is playing catch-up, and caught up it has. From July 2012 to June 2013, Android's global market share increased from 26.53% to 37.93%. Apple's iOS saw a slight decrease over the same period, from 25.41% to 25.09%.
Additionally, the tablet space, which has been handily dominated by Apple iPads since its debut, is feeling the winds of change. Apple hasn't launched a new tablet since its iPad Mini in November 2012, and during the second quarter of 2013, Apple's share of the global tablet market fell to 35.50%, its lowest point ever with shipments dropping from 19.5 million in Q1 to 14.6 million in Q2. Granted, 35.5% is still the majority share, with Samsung's (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) second place share coming in at 21.4%. Apple's dominance is being threatened by its sparse new product releases, as well as the wealth of Android tablets available on the market -- a few of them available for under $100 (click here to see some of the best Android tablets available).
There are even prototypes of Google Glass out and about via the company's Explorer program, which had consumers write in a tweet or Google+ post about what they would do with the new wearable tech device and why they hope to be selected to receive one. Those who wrote the most interesting entries were given the option of buying Glass for $1500. Obviously, no such prototype exist for the iWatch or for Apple's smart TV.
What Apple has on its side is an incredibly well-developed ecosystem of products and unmatched access to apps, especially for iPad, through its app store. So although several companies make smart watches, the iWatch, if and when it is debuted, will take its place in the Apple pantheon alongside the iPhone and iPad, and its status and desirability is likely to be higher because of this.
Apple's standard MO is to keep high-profile products under wraps and to use years and years of R&D to create a compelling product. This has worked with the company's "black swan" products in the past, but now the question is, is this tactic still relevant? Google seems to be flooding the market with quality products at competitive prices, and we're all still waiting on Apple.
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