Google launches Nexus 7 tablet, Jelly Bean and spherical Nexus Q device for home use

New tablet is 'built for Google Play,' a media repository in the cloud

As expected, Google on Wednesday announced a $199, 7-in. tablet called Nexus 7 that will run on Android 4.1, dubbed Jelly Bean.

Built with Asus, the tablet can be ordered starting today on Google Play, and will ship in the U.S. and three other countries in mid-July, Google said.

Google described the tablet as principally a conduit for Google Play, its cloud-based repository for Google apps and movies, books and other content. Nexus 7 is "built for Google Play," said Hugo Barra, product management director for Android at Google.

At Google I/O, its annual developer conference, Google also introduced a spherical Android-based device called Nexus Q that will work in homes to distribute music and other content over stereos and displays with controls from Android smartphones and tablets.

Google Play will launch on the home screen of the new tablet and buyers will get a $25 credit toward Google Play content, such a music, e-books and movies. The Nexus 7 screen has a 1280 x 800 resolution, useful in watching movies, games and other content, Barra said.

Google also listed a series of improvements in Android 4.1, including paid app encryption to help developers protect their intellectual property and an on-device speech recognition engine that eliminates the need for speech input to work over a wireless connection.

Jelly Bean will also ship in the Galaxy Nexus and Motorola Xoom smartphones and as open source in mid-July, Google said. A developer blog on the improvements was posted at the same time that Android 4.1 was announced on stage at the Google I/O opening keynote.

One feature of Android 4.1 that Google demonstrated during the keynote was a smoother and more responsive user interface, with a side-by-side demonstration with a device running Android 4.0, also called Ice Cream Sandwich, which launched last October.

Given the price and focus on content streaming from Google Play, analysts said the Nexus 7 tablet will principally serve the same audience as the Amazon Kindle Fire, a $199, 7-in. device Amazon is expected to update in July.

Google didn't offer many details about how it developed the tablet or whether it relies on Nvidia's Kai reference design, a means for keeping down costs while keeping up performance.

Google announces its Nexus 7 tablet and Android 4.1

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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