Google is expected to counter the upcoming Microsoft Surface tablets with one of its own today.
Tablets running Google's Android mobile operating system will carry the Nexus name and take center stage at Google I/O, the company's annual developers conference, held here this week.
Both Google and Microsoft are taking a page from Apple and its dominant iPad -- dictating hardware and software design. The 7-inch Google-Asus tablets, which will be the first of their kind from the Internet giant, will be built by Quanta Computer, says DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim. They are expected to cost $200 to $250, going head-to-head with Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire, says Tom Mainelli, an analyst for technology researcher IDC.
The Google tablets arrive amid a stampede of tablet advances from Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.
"It's Google trying to show the hardware guys, 'Now, this is how you should make a tablet,'" says Mainelli. "For Google, it's been one failed tablet after another." Google declined to comment on the Asus tablet.
Sales of Android tablets have suffered because hardware makers and mobile carriers vary widely in how often and well they deliver software updates, Mainelli says. Also, he says, developer interest in Android apps for tablets is lagging.
A Google I/O tablet push could be just the software cheerleading fix needed to rally developers.
"The idea would be to put out a tablet to prove skeptics wrong and to reignite interest in Android devices," says Forrester analyst Frank Gillett. That's especially critical now ahead of Microsoft's fall release of Windows 8 and tablets that will run it.
Google "will do something very similar to what Microsoft did," says IDC analyst Al Hilwa. "They'll do something to showcase what's possible on Android."
The Google I/O event will also be the unveiling of the latest advances for Google TV, the Chrome Web browser, Maps, the Google+ social network and Google's cloud-based services.
Speculation is running high that Google might launch a voice assistant similar to Apple's Siri, unveil a music-streaming device for the home, and give a glimpse of Project Glass, its technology to feed digital information to eyeglasses. Google is also expected to discuss its next version of Android, dubbed Jelly Bean.
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