Today was the closest we’ve yet come to an official look at Google’s tablet. And it was quite an eye opener. A 7-inch screen? No rear camera? And only a maximum of 16GB storage? Looks like Google and Asus aren’t gunning for the iPad.

The Asus Nexus 7 isn’t due to be revealed until Google’s I/O developers’ conference, which starts on Wednesday. But earlier today pics, and what seem to be official specs, leaked out. And if they’re on the money, then we can’t see the Nexus 7 worrying Apple too much at all, which is a really odd move.

It seems, from what we’ve gleaned so far, that Google and Asus are aiming more for Amazon Kindle Fire territory. The 7-inch screen is more suited for reading and watching TV shows than content creation. And its 1280×800 pixel resolution will undoubtedly be fine for that size, but it’s not going to trouble the iPad’s Retina Display, standing as it does at 2048×1536 pixels. But this isn’t just a specs head-to-head, there’s a broader point here.

The iPad’s large, high resolution screen marks it out as a proper portable computer. Hence the burgeoning range of apps letting you actually make things for yourself using it. You can tweak photos using Photoshop on your iPad, make tunes with Garageband, and even DJ on it, using the djay app. And these are just the tip of the content creation iceberg.

Bigger screen, more detail

You can pack so much info onto the iPad’s large screen, and you won’t lose any detail thanks to the ultra sharp retina display. (There’s a reason Apple is using the same screen for its MacBook laptops.) Sure, similar apps are available via Google Play, but it’s nowhere near the same experience on a 7-inch tablet. Try DJing on a 7-inch screen and let us know how you get on.

Really, a 7-inch tablet is a completely different category of device. The Nexus 7 isn’t much bigger than the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note, which Samsung refers to as a phone. To get an idea of scale, two 7-inch tablets standing side to side in portrait will take up the same footprint as a 10-incher in landscape. So it really is apples and oranges (no pun intended).

Aiming for the Fire

This isn’t to say the Nexus 7 can’t succeed. Amazon’s smart move with the Kindle Fire was positioning it as a device for reading, watching and playing on, rather than as a large, unwieldy (and expensive) do-it-all computer. The low price and lack of a rear camera mean the Nexus 7 is more of a rival to the Fire than the iPad.

And Google knows it can’t just take on Apple at its own game. Google doesn’t have a history of hardware, that’s why it’s partnered with Asus, just as it did with HTC when it rolled out the G1 (original ‘Google phone’), and with Samsung for the Galaxy Nexus.

So as a piece of kit, the Nexus 7 is a bit of a non-story. What’s far more interesting is the software side of things.

The Android ecosystem

If the leaked document is correct, Google will take control of all future Android updates, meaning an end to the fragmentation and delays that have plagued the Ice Cream Sandwich rollout. This could apply to all Android devices, not just the Nexus 7. This is huge news, and music to the ears of anyone who’s had to endure a lengthy wait for ICS while hearing about all the features Jelly Bean will bring to your device. It’s a little like waiting for a film to come to your local cinema when everyone else has already seen the sequel.

The Nexus 7 is no iPad killer. Rather, it’s an affordable tablet that’ll be the flagship for Android Jelly Bean. The real triumph – if Google can pull it off – will be a streamlining of the update process. That’s where Google is really struggling against Apple. Thankfully, it looks like Google knows that – for now at least – delivering a seamless user experience is probably far more important than big screens and high end specs.

  • Anonymous

    What a silly heading is never was or is trying to compete with the ipad, its the kindle fire that it competing against. The title sounds so anti Android.

  • Lexplex

    I was really hoping for something of a size and punch to match the iPad but it does look like they’re taking a swing at the Kindle Fire and the ‘mainstream’ market. Be interesting to see how much it costs but it’s too close in size to my phone to be worth the extra expenditure.

  • Woody

    Too little. Too late. Ordinary folks have been completely underwhelmed by ICS. This inexpensive tablet is not going to fix that. Geeks may love it, but that is all.

    • Pete Perry

      I don’t know if you noticed but Android Activations have dwarfed iOS in a major way! It really isn’t even close, Google activates as many Android devices in one month as Apple does iOS devices in an entire quarter! Seriously, these numbers are getting worse with the Galaxy S3 stealing the iPhones thunder.

  • Captain Nutkick

    The tablet doesn’t HAVE to compete with apple’s products, guys. And if it does, then it doesn’t HAVE to do everything the same as apple (screen resolution, cameras, size etc.)
    You’ve got so used to companies trying to match apple’s success by copying them that you’ve come to expect just that; and won’t settle for anything underneath (specwise, at least).

    This is an Android product, not Apple.

  • Mathew Rowlands

    I agree with the other comments in that this isn’t trying to beat the ipad, and is yet another pro-apple, anti google/android article. I like the ipad, but I think it is too big, and too expensive, I’m not going to buy a tablet for the price of a laptop. I want a tablet that can run apps on a bigger screen than a phone, and is better for surfing the internet, really how many people actually use the dj apps (not just download)? So this is perfect for me, and so long as it is sub £250 i will be buying one. The fact that it doesn’t have retina display (which renders the new ipad useless as you can only have a few apps on as take up so much space on hard drive), or a rear facing camera (have you seen people taking pics on an ipad, looks ridiculous!), matters not in the slightest. And to show I’m not biased, Im writing this from my macbook, which doesn’t mean I have to buy every product apple make, as apple, and most tech writers seem to think.

  • Taras Dhedhi

    “You can pack so much info onto the iPad’s large screen”

    iOS is a limited icon based os, quite honestly it can 4096×3072 res and still be as usless as brick ..

    iOS isn’t all that and never will be.

  • Guri Dhillon

    Article from a scared fan boys….i assume ;)

  • Anonymous

    Who honestly uses a rear camera on a Tablet, I’ve had my Galaxy Tab for about 5 months now and not once have I ever considered using the camera on it. When you see people taking photos with a tablet you just want to run up and slap them in the face.

    • Anonymous

      I agree. I have an Asus Transformer and have not used the camera for anything. Seriously how ridiculous is it to hold something the size of a tablet to take a picture? I have a mobile that is better for point and shoot, and a dslr for arty photos.

  • JDR

    What an utterly pointless article.

    When reviewing 10″ tablets in the £400+ price-range, feel free to compare them at length and continually with an iPad. It’s a little like reviewing a family saloon and complaining that it doesn’t have the load-space of a Transit van.

  • Pete Perry

    Huh? Apple isn’t using the same screen in their macbooks and photoshop touch was on Android first!

    The only thing not aiming at the iPad is the size of the tablet! Both Samsung and Amazon have shown there is a market for this tablet and you’ll see this take up much of their market share as this is a tablet many fans are looking for!

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