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Google's Nexus Tablet Move

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The Apple iPad pile-on continues as the search giant prepares to launch its own branded device.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL It was only two years ago that Apple (AAPL) introduced its iPad, but since then every hardware, software, and nowhere company has tried to top it, until tablets have become as common as, well, jelly beans. And that isn't as dumb a metaphor as you might think, since this week's flavor is expected to be introduced by Google (GOOG), and will run on the next version of its Android operating system, code-named Jelly Bean.

If timing is everything, Google just blew it. Microsoft (MSFT) got a raft of free publicity just last week with its announcement of the Microsoft Surface tablet. That one was something worth writing about, since Mr. Softee is breaking a 37-year company tradition by manufacturing its own computer, and alienating its many hardware partners in the process.

But wait. Google's device is a low-end tablet, priced in line with the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle and the Barnes & Noble (BKS) Nook, not the iPad, the Surface, or the other Android tablet devices. (Microsoft has not revealed pricing for the Surface, but has said it would be comparable to current Apple and Android models.)

Based on a leaked training document, the site Gizmodo and others report that the Google Nexus 7 tablet, to be manufactured by ASUS, will be a 7-inch device, priced at $199 for 8 GB, or $249 for 16 GB. One app is an absolute no-brainer: Google Wallet, the company's virtual payments system.

Forbes, for one, thinks the Google tablet could be the first tablet to pose a serious threat to the iPad because, despite its low price, it will run the fullest, latest version of Android. That could make it more attractive to developers of apps than the other Android-based tablets, including Amazon's, which use earlier versions or variations of the operating system.

ComputerWorld sources also suggest that Google's tablet could also be a threat to the iPad because it has that magic combo of low-end price and high-end features.

But surely there's a reason why that combo is such a rarity. Amazon priced its Kindle at below manufacturing cost because it was the ultimate loss leader: a viewing device for its own media store, and a one-click shopping tool for everything else it stocks.

What's Google got that has that kind of potential payoff?

The device is expected to be introduced at Google's annual developer conference, which starts Wednesday in San Francisco.


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