The Nexus 7 is cheap, but who are the real winners and losers?
You get what you pay for, that's the old adage. In many cases that's as true in technology as it is in camping gear or cars: you pay for quality, you pay a premium price for a premium product.
With the release of the £159 Nexus 7, Google's new Jelly Bean tablet built by Asus, the Android tablet world is being rocked. A tablet, albeit with only 8GB of internal memory, that offers the latest hardware and latest software, in a body that doesn't bear the hallmarks of a cheap device.
Yes, there are some features that you might want - like a few more connections or the option to add a microSD card - but the sharp IPS display and powerful quad core Tegra 3 chipset makes the Nexus 7 a tablet that doesn't look weak next to the latest flagship £500 smartphone.
It does, however, make cheap Android tablets look bad. It makes them look very bad indeed. For a number of years, Android tablets have been appearing from all corners. Many exhibit unexciting design, the case feels cheap, the display has poor viewing angles and software is outdated and lacking Google certification.
The experience that these cheap Android tablets has brought with them has damaged some of the excitement that the Android smartphone market has been driving. Calls of fragmentation, and devices that lack the real essence of the Google Android experience, have blighted a fledgling market.
That's not to say there isn't a place for more affordable product, but with the £159 Nexus 7, it's difficult not to see this as good value for money. The Nexus 7 comes from Asus, a company that has demonstrated some mastery with Android tablets in their Transformer lines, and bears the Nexus branding: this is pure Android, this is premium Android.
It's not just cheap tablets that now look less appealing, but the HTC Flyer sees itself as simply too expensive, as is the Motorola Xoom 2 Media Edition, a tablet we like a lot and a little larger at 8.2-inches, and the ViewSonic ViewPad 7x. We can't help feeling that the £159 Nexus 7 will stop the rest dead in their tracks.
Other manufacturers bring additional benefits to their tablets, but less so than they do with their smartphones. But let's be honest, with the quality that Asus have brought to the Nexus 7, are you really going to pick any of the others?
It's all about content
But how can it be so cheap? Let's look to Amazon for an answer. The Amazon Kindle has been a great seller: a good-quality device, sold at an affordable price, with an integrated experience. What's the secret? Content. Amazon not only sells you the device, it then also sells you everything that's on it. It can offset device costs because that's what's driving content revenue.
The Amazon Kindle Fire presents the natural counterpoint for the Nexus 7 - size, price, storage - but it also meets Google's desire. Talking to AllThingsD, Andy Rubin, SVP of Mobile at Google, admits that he realised that "consumers are buying into a content ecosystem with tablets".
That's exactly what Amazon offers through the Kindle and what saw the meteoric rise of the Apple iPod, subsequently followed by the iPhone and iPad. Content is king for these devices in defined ecosystems and, for Android, also the biggest nut to crack.
Google offers a lot of content from it's own stores, but one of the biggest advantages of going Android is format compatibility. Therein lies the appeal of Android: you can essentially do what you want with it. And there's the problem too: you have so many buying (or simply sideloading) choices, you might not need to use any of Google Play's entertainment content.
The win that Google is looking for is getting Android tablets out into customers' hands, then feeding them the content for those devices in the future. Updates to Google Play sees a more comprehensive offering than ever before, but we're still looking at a gamble: will the customer bite?
The £159 sell for the Nexus 7 is incredibly easy, the customer is the clear winner here. The sell for the content is much tougher. You may still buy your books and music from Amazon and hand your movie money to Netflix. The win for Google then, is that you're not doing it on a Kindle Fire or iPad.
But there's always another type of content that Google wants to supply you and that's advertising. Getting a tablet into your hands, providing you with the third screen, is potentially another route for the company to be feeding you adverts.
The real losers in this game, however, are those Android tablet manufacturers that now find they can't simply hide behind affordability.