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Google sells 7-inch tablet, challenges Kindle Fire

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google will sell a small tablet computer bearing its brand in a challenge to Amazon's Kindle Fire.

The Nexus 7 is designed specifically for Google Play, the online store that sells movies, music, books, apps and other content — the things Amazon.com Inc. also sells for its tablet computer.

Google's announcement that it's putting its brand on a tablet comes a week after Microsoft Corp. said the same thing. Both moves risk alienating Google's and Microsoft's hardware partners. Those companies, in turn, could be less inclined to work closely with Google and Microsoft.

The Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire have screens that measure 7 inches (17.78 centimeters) diagonally, smaller than the nearly 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) on Apple Inc.'s popular iPad. The Nexus 7 will also be light — at about 0.75 pound (0.34 kilogram), compared with the Kindle Fire's 0.9 pound (0.41 kilogram). The iPad weighs 1.44 pounds (0.65 kilograms).

The seven-inch tablet powered by the latest generation of Android software is being made for Google by Taiwan-based Asus and weighs about as much as a paperback book, according to Android team head Hugo Barra.

The Nexus 7 will ship in mid-July starting at US$199 — the same price as the Kindle Fire. By contrast, iPads start at US$499. Customers can start ordering it through Google on Wednesday, initially in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

Google's price is aggressively low, considering that the Nexus 7 has more features than the Kindle, including a front-facing camera. The Kindle is believed to be roughly break even at US$199. Samsung Electronics Co. sells a tablet similar to Google's for US$250.

Google has previously put its own brand on a flagship line of “Nexus” smartphones. But that market is more mature than the tablet market, and there was less risk of Google alienating partners, particularly since it didn't price the phones lower than the norm.

Much like the Nexus phones, the Nexus 7 tablet will be a showcase for a new version of Google Inc.'s Android operating system, in this case one called “Jelly Bean.”

Although the tablet carries the Google brand, the machine will be made by Asustek Computer Inc. Google recently expanded into the device-making business with its US$12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility, but the company has stressed that it intends to continue to rely on Asus and other manufacturers that have embraced Android.

Microsoft's announcement of its Surface tablet last week and Google's Nexus 7 add up to a “troubling” situation for tablet makers such as Samsung Electronics Co., said Jeff Orr, an analyst with ABI Research.

When a software-supplying partner turns around and puts out its own hardware product, “is that a partner or an enemy?” Orr asked.

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A Google employee wears a pair of Glass during Google's Developers Conference Wednesday, June 27.(AFP)



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