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For Google's Nexus 7, the iPad is the Least Important Target

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL If you think Google (GOOG) is using its just-announced Nexus 7 tablet to take on Apple's (AAPL) almighty iPad, then you had better think again.

For Google, there are two far more important targets to destroy -- the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble (BKS) NOOK Tablet.


According to research firm IDC, in the first quarter of 2012, here's how the tablet market shook out in terms of market share:

1. Apple iPad
2. Samsung
3. Amazon
4. Lenovo
5. Barnes & Noble

So, the Amazon Kindle Fire and the NOOK Tablet are two of the four best-selling Android tablets.

But here's the problem.

If you actually go to the Kindle Fire web page. Amazon only mentions Android one time in the email section, where it says, "Additional email apps are available in our Amazon Appstore for Android."

Barnes & Noble neglects to mention Android altogether.

This isn't a shocker, since each of them run heavily-modified versions of Android that are specifically designed to feed dollars into its parent's content ecosystems rather than Google's own marketplace.

This means that while the Kindle and NOOK have helped boost Android market share, they're doing nothing to help build the Android brand within tablets, or Google's own pocketbook.

So they gotta go!

From this perspective, Google made the right strategic choice in going with a $199 model with a 7" screen to knock off these little guys. Amazon's market share has been falling sharply, but Google needs to push the Kindle Fire off the cliff altogether. (See: IDC's 1% Tablet Forecast Increase Masks a Huge Decrease in Expectations for Google Android.)

Furthermore, by targeting the low end of the market, Google can avoid the potentially huge embarrassment of falling flat on its face the way Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Research In Motion (RIMM), and Motorola (which is incidentally now owned by Google) did when they squared off directly with the iPad.

What's also really interesting is that Microsoft (MSFT) is looking pretty clever right now. Remember back in May when it announced a $600 million investment in Barnes & Noble, which bought a 17.6% stake in the NOOK business? (See: What Microsoft Gets From the Barnes & Noble Deal)

Right now, that lifeline looks like a roundabout way (albeit an expensive one) for Microsoft to throw a monkey wrench into the Google Android tablet complex while preparing its own Surface Tablet for battle, though that devices has its own issues. (See: With Surface, Microsoft Stands Little Chance of Competing With Apple in the iPad Market.)

Twitter: @MichaelComeau

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POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.