The new Nexus 7 from Google is a lot of tablet for $200. Is it as good as the iPad 3? Well, not exactly, but it's also half the price.
I took delivery of a 16GB model today (which bumps the price up to $250) and I'm duly impressed with its specs, build quality and overall feel in my fist few hours of using it.
Early reviews (CNet, Engadget, Verge) similarly sing its praises. It's the first "pure Google" tab (hence the "Nexus" moniker), it's the best $200 tab, its fast and responsive (courtesy of its quad-core Tegra 3 processor,) yadda. And all of it is true, especially the bit about it being pure Google -- no one dislikes Android skins more than I do -- plus the N7 enjoys the distinction of being the first tablet running Android 4.1 "Jellybean," the smoothest and slickest build of Android yet.
The Nexus 7 is the real deal. Don't mistake it for other 7-inchers (like the Galaxy Tab, or the awful Kindle Fire). The problem is that it's missing something: an Apple logo.
Rumors have been swirling that Apple is going to release a 7.85-inch "iPad mini" and the Nexus 7 validates why Apple shouldn't ignore the smaller, mini-tablet market.
Clearly consumers want a tablet smaller than 10-inches. Sales of the Fire and Nexus 7 bear this out. The Nexus 7 is sold out at most brick and mortar stores nationwide and the 16GB model is back-ordered 3-4 weeks on the Google Play store. Update: Google has halted sales of the 16GB Nexus 7 model.
Size matters, and a 7-8-inch tablet is more manageable than a horsey 10-incher which requires a special case because it won't fit in a pocket. 7-8 inches also fits easily in the hand and is less intimidating to novice users than a 10-incher. A 7-8 inch tablet is appealing to women, kids and people that don't want to wield a full-size tablet. There's just something about the 7-8 inch form-factor that works.
And then there's the price issue. At $199 the 8GB Nexus 7 is a steal. An serious user will want to pony up the extra $50 for the 16GB model, and even that is half the price of the entry-level 16GB iPad 3. Price is a big barrier to entering the Apple ecosystem, especially for new users. Existing Apple customers have less of a problem with the "Apple tax" because they're already believers in the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) arguement because they live it.
Windows PC users are a tougher sell. They're used to paying bottom dollar for PCs and having vendors fight in a race to the bottom for their business. Many PC users get sticker shock when they realize that the 16GB iPad costs $500 ($630 if you want 4G) and that higher capacity models go for up to $830 -- and that's without the AppleCare. For $900 you can buy a pretty powerful Windows desktop or laptop with all the trimmings. Or a car.
Apple has to be closely studying the market's response to the 7-inch tablet and absolutely licking its chops in anticipation. When/if Apple releases a 7-8-inch tablet it will freeze the market, especially if it's priced right. If the rumors are true and the "iPad mini" is indeed 7.85-inches, that's 36% more screen real estate than the Fire and the Nexus 7, so don't expect it to sell for $199. $249 would make is a no-brainer purchase over the Android competition (for app selection alone), but I have a feeling that the iPad mini is going to retail for $299.
And you know what? It will still leave the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire in the dust.
There are a ton of reasons why Apple should release an iPad mini, can anyone make the argument that it shouldn't? If so, I'd love to hear it.
Update: About my 36% comment above, it's based on the diagram below from @trojankitten which shows the Nexus 7 screen area measuring 22 sq. in. vs. the "iPad mini's" screen area measuring 30 sq. in.