With the new 7″ Nexus 7 tablet, Google, along with its hardware partner ASUS, has decided to up the ante in small tablets. Despite, and perhaps because of, the iPad’s nearly uncontested dominance in global tablet sales, Google is cramming the Nexus 7 with features that, at least on paper, give the tablet markedly better performance than the iPad Mini, and pretty much every other small tablet on the market.
The Nexus 7 will get the latest version of Google’s mobile OS, Android 4.3, which adds at least one notable feature: support for “restricted profiles”—useful for parents who want to control what their kids have access to on the tablet. On the hardware side, the new Nexus 7 now supports a high-end 3D graphics rendering engine, “OpenGL ES 3″ which should appeal to gamers. The tablet also supports “Bluetooth Smart,” which allows devices to remain wirelessly connected to the tablet all the time, without draining the tablet’s batteries. Google demoed a heart rate monitor using the technology today, and of all the announcements surrounding the Nexus 7, this seems to be the one with the most interesting potential. It would be useful, for example, in getting us closer to the world of always-on environmental and body-based sensors that will be important parts of the Internet of Things.
What remains to be seen is whether or not Google can gain enough momentum with its new tablet to get developers to migrate to the Google Play store, which still does not generate as much revenue for most developers as Apple’s iOS store. Google Play also lacks the breadth of content offered by iTunes, but that may be increasingly irrelevant as people continue to migrate to streaming options (Netflix, Amazon Video, Spotify, Rdio).