Analyst: Google devices don't address Android failings

At I/O conference, search giant shows effort to improve Android with upcoming Jelly Bean release, but fails to solve app optimization for large screens and faces price competition from rivals, notes Ovum analyst.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor on

Google's new Android version, tablet and home media device pick up on major issues with partial solutions, but significant challenges remains across the company's device portfolio, an Ovum analyst reveals. 

At its I/O 2012 conference on Wednesday, Google unveiled Jelly Bean, which builds on its previous Android version, Ice Cream Sandwich. To be rolled out in July, Jelly Bean sports a new user interface, a competitor to Apple's Siri, and Google Play which uses artificial intelligence to serve up information relevant to the user's context proactively. The search giant also unveiled Nexus 7, a 7-inch tablet from its partner Asus, at US$199, as well as Nexus Q, a device that streams content from the cloud and attaches to a TV and other home media devices, priced at US$299.

The new Android version includes some good improvements, including a competitor to Apple's Siri and an innovative service using artificial intelligence, Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum, noted in a statement.

More importantly, Google said it had seeded a platform development kit (PDK) to hardware vendors for several months now in preparing for the launch of Jelly Bean, Dawson said, noting this marked the search giant's "first serious attempt" to reduce fragmentation and long delays in getting the latest Android version onto devices and into users' pockets.

The 7-inch tablet also is a important step forward for Google's Android tablet strategy as it "breaks the dichotomy" existing between low-price, low-performance devices, and over-priced, high-spec devices, Dawson noted.

The Nexus 7, however, borrows heavily from Amazon's Kindle Fire by "putting content front and center", and does not solve the biggest challenge for Android tablets--the lack of apps optimized for the larger screen size, the analyst explained. While this problem, on a 7-inch screen, is less severe, he said it still does not solve the problem and Google has not stated how it was address this platform.

The price-point also seems to benefit from subsidy, and is not sustainable in the long term, Dawson pointed out, pointing to the lack of compelling apps and content optimized for devices as Google's fundamental problem regarding Android.

The Nexus Q, priced at US$299, is also similar to Apple TV which was launched in 2007, except the latter is priced at US$99 and does far more, including mirroring smartphone and tablet screens, he observed.

"Google's decision to manufacture the device in the U.S. may turn out to be a self-defeating PR move, given that it's the most logical reason for the inflated $299 price-point," the Ovum analyst said. "Even the Apple TV, of course, doesn't sell very well, so there's little hope for Google's latest venture into the home entertainment space at three times the price."

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