Google Rolls Out Its Tablet

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$199 tablet's goal: 'Simple, beautiful and really smart'

Google, acknowledging that the fast-emerging tablet market is too important to leave to others, said Wednesday it'll sell a tablet computer and a media player, expanding its hardware business to compete more directly with Amazon's Kindle Fire, Apple's iPad and others.

"Google is interested in reclaiming the (tablet) entry market," says Tom Mainelli, an analyst at IDC. "Its partners have struggled. Google wants to show them how it's done."

The 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet, developed  with  manufacturer Asus, will have an HD display and run the latest version of Android software, Jelly Bean, which includes voice recognition. "We want things to be simple, beautiful and really smart," says Hugo Barra, Google's director of product management.

Priced at $199 for the 8-gigabyte model, and $249 for 16GB, it can be ordered now and  ships in mid-July.

Google also unveiled Nexus Q, a sphere-shaped media player that plugs into speakers and TVs at home to stream songs and movies stored in the cloud. Priced at $299, Q adds a social component, letting friends play their songs, movies and videos, saved on Google Play, in your home. Q ships  in mid-July.

Wednesday's announcements point to Google's  focus on consumer experience, borrowing  from Apple's and Amazon's playbooks, says Richard Shim, an analyst at DisplaySearch.

With iPad, Apple has solidified consumers' expectation that tablets should be an easy conduit to their personal media.  But other tablet makers have largely failed to deliver on the promise, Shim says. "What we saw today was Google trying to fulfill the potential," he says. Its presentation  "didn't focus a lot on the hardware, but more on the experience."

Other Google products:

Google Now. A feature in Jelly Bean that may raise questions for privacy advocates, Google Now uses search history, location and the calendar to alert users about pertinent information, including events, places of interest, faster travel routes and sports scores for favorite teams. "It's Google looking closer and closer over your shoulder," says John M. Simpson, a consumer advocate at Consumer Watchdog.

Google+ app. There's a new Android app for the struggling social-network site. The iPad app will be available soon.

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