The rumors of a Google(s goog) Nexus tablet took another step towards reality this week, with a Wall Street Journal report confirming Google’s plans. The idea is for Google to try a direct to consumer sales model for the second time; it tried this in 2010 with the Nexus One, but the concept didn’t change the way consumers buy phones as Google had hoped. There’s a key difference this time, however, as Sascha Segan correctly points out at PC Magazine: Carriers won’t be involved.
Instead, Google will sell the tablets over the web and ship them to buyers; end of process. With the Nexus One, carriers had to be involved to some degree as the phone would be using the carrier networks and need a carrier plan. A Google Nexus tablet, however, would likely be a Wi-Fi only device, so the customer relationship would be directly between Google and the end users. Google doesn’t even need to rely on the web only as it could sell its tablet through retail stores such as Target(s tgt), WalMart(s wmt), BestBuy(s bbuy) and others, just as Amazon(s amzn) does with its Kindle devices.
So it’s a safe bet that this tablet won’t have cellular capabilities. That will help keep costs down for the devices, expected to be built first by Asus, and later by Samsung. If the tablet isn’t exactly like the Asus MeMo slate shown off at CES — with a reported price of $249 — it should be similar. I’d expect at least a dual-core processor (the MeMo will use a quad-core chip), 7-inch display, limited internal memory — say 8- or 16 GB — with microSD expansion, Android 4.0 software, front and rear cameras, plus support for high-definition output on large screens. That could sway some away from a Kindle Fire, especially if priced at $199 or less, although Amazon’s simple interface and wider range of digital content could still challenge sales.
One device that isn’t challenged of late is the Samsung Galaxy Note; even with the “dreaded” stylus, Samsung has sold 5 million of the large phone / small tablet devices. The 5.3-inch handset is likely picking up momentum overseas as AT&T (s t) has only sold the device in the U.S. for the past 6 weeks. Samsung is wisely looking to the stylus as a way to stand apart from the crowded sea of Android phones. The company has already announced that when it upgrades the Galaxy Note to Android 4.0 in the next three months, it will add more software functions that use the stylus.
Whether or not your Android phone has a stylus, you can now cut down on your data usage when browsing: Opera release the final version of its Opera Mini 7 browser this week and it’s an excellent way to quickly browse on the cheap. Opera claims up to a 90 percent data savings when using Opera Mini because the company compresses information and pictures from websites and the delivers the content. This happens in milliseconds, so there’s no real delay in the experience, although you are providing Opera with your browsing history as a result. I use Opera Mini as a two-browser strategy: For basic short bursts of using the web, I’ll hit Opera Mini. When I’m consumer large amounts of video or other content, I reach for Chrome on my Android 4.0 device.