Android is currently the thorn in everyone's side—from Apple to Microsoft to RIM—the “free” mobile OS is continuing to dominate and today they added just a little bit more.
For those who weren’t aware, Google I/O kicked off today. It’s their BUILD, their MIX, their random secret Apple announcement where they show off their big plans for Android over the next few months. Here’s the recap of the big news today which will surely keep Redmond on their toes:
Google Nexus 7 – A 7” tablet that is branded by Google themselves. Analogous to their Nexus line of phones, the mini tablet will set the standard for Android going forward and boy, do they need it. Android tablets are currently fairly terrible (we speak from personal experience with the lauded Samsung 10.1) and Google really needs to get their act together here before Microsoft takes a swing with the Surface.
While a 7” tablet is quite meager and far from ideal, Google did win in a couple of areas. For one, they announced the specifications—we mean all the nitty gritty. It has a 1280x800 display, quad-processor, 9 hours of video playback, WiFi, NFC, GPS and Bluetooth. It also got a price tag at $199 with pre-orders starting today for a mid-July release.
And that’s where Microsoft lost everyone last week—no price and no date on availability. That $199 will guarantee this device gets into a lot of hands. Will it be enough to keep Surface from taking off? We doubt it but it’s not helping either. Think Kindle Fire though as Google’s main target though as opposed to an iPad or Surface. Check out our pal Phil's hands on with the tablet here.
Android 4.1 ‘Jelly Bean’ – Ah yes, the ridiculous names of Android continues and Android 4.1 was shown off today. What’s more, the SDK is now out and available for download too. Some of the new features include offline voice-to-text dictation, new notifications which expand upon the current model, improved voice search akin to Apple’s Siri, redesigned camera app and a new service that uses your Google data to recommend things.
Is 4.1 killer? No, as the 0.1 bump indicates this is a minor revision and it’s nothing compared to what Microsoft is doing with Windows Phone 8 and the NT kernel. Still, like iOS 6, Android is continuing to build off of their foundation, adding new, somewhat interesting and useful features for consumers.
Jelly Bean 4.1 will be available by mid-July for their Nexus devices but the big question is what about everyone else? Android has a terrible update record and 4.0 is barely on 10% of devices. In other words, Microsoft has some breathing room here for the fall and its new Windows Phone 8 devices (see, it would have been easier to say “Windows 8 Phones”).
Oh and their unlocked, Galaxy Nexus phone dropped to $350 for those in the US.
Google Maps with offline caching – Like the Nokia-Microsoft mapping announcement for Windows Phone 8, users can grab the brand new Google Maps now with offline caching. Powerful stuff
Chrome for Android out of beta – While it’s no IE10, Google took the beta off of Chrome for it’s new Android browser. It should be interesting to see how it compares to Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 in the fall.
Nexus Q - Think of it as Google's answer to Nokia's Play 360. A device to stream your music too but price higher. It will fetch for $299 with preorders starting today.
All in all, Google did not announce any game changers, nothing disruptive except for the 7” tablet. That Nexus 7 will do a lot to drop prices on mini-tablets and force Apple and Microsoft to rethink some options in the future but we're not sure it's going to fix Google's problems here.
Google doesn’t win because it’s better, it wins through market saturation. Read more I/O 2012 coverage at Android Central.
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.