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The tablet wars took a new twist at this week's Google I/O 2012 conference. The search giant revealed the Nexus 7, a $199 7-inch tablet built by Asus that runs Android Jelly Bean (4.1).
With the Nexus 7, Google is following the trail blazed by devices like Amazon's popular Kindle Fire. Also sporting a 7-inch screen and running a modified, media-centric version of Android, the Kindle Fire is the king of the "starter tablet" market.
Amazon is notoriously coy about releasing sales performance figures on its devices. Analysts estimate that Amazon sold up to 6 million of the $199 tablets in Q4 2011. Currently, several companies, including Barnes & Noble, Toshiba and Lenovo, are vying for a slice of the 7-inch market.
One competitor is a tablet maker has the industry buzzing for its conspicuous absence in the starter tablet space: Apple.
Apple's iconic iPad continues to ride a wave of popularity -- and fill the company's coffers. IDC forecasts that iOS will make up 62.5 of the tablet market in 2012, a healthy increase over last year's 58.2 percent share.
And if Apple launches an "iPad Mini" this year, all bets are off. Tom Mainelli, research director of Mobile Connected Devices at IDC, said in a recent statement, "If Apple launches a sub-$300, 7-inch product into the market later this year as rumored, we expect the company's grip on this market to become even stronger."
Apple remains mum on its 7-inch tablet plans, if any. Meanwhile, Google is taking advantage of Apple's silence.
Currently available for preorder on Google.com, the Nexus 7 weighs 0.75 lbs., measures 7.8 inches by 4.7 inches and is 0.4 inches thick. The Wi-Fi-only device packs a 7-inch, 1280 x 800 IPS touchscreen, Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor and 1 GB of RAM. Google estimates that the tablet's battery is good for up to 8 hours of continuous use.
Storage capacity options for the Nexus 7 boil down to 8 GB and 16 GB. The device carries an array of sensors common to multimedia tablets, including an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and GPS. Nexus 7 also has an NFC chip for Android Beam, Google's device-to-device sharing technology.
To show off the tablet's affinity for entertainment, Nexus 7 will ship preloaded with the "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" movie, "The Bourne Dominion" e-book, songs and magazines. Buyers also get a $25 credit that is good towards Google Play, the company’s iTunes-like marketplace for apps, music, movies and e-books.
Nexus 7 ships in mid-July.