Google Inc on Wednesday unveiled a slimmer, more powerful tablet computer on its Nexus brand and a thumb-sized device that lets popular mobile gadgets feed online content wirelessly to television sets.
The ramped-up second-generation Nexus 7 by Taiwan-based Asustek Computer Inc (華碩) made its debut along with a Chromecast dongle that plugs into television sets to let people easily route online content to big screens.
Mario Queiroz, head of Google TV, said Chromecast “won’t clutter your entertainment cabinet. It simply disappears behind your TV once it is plugged in.”
The new connector device went on sale for US$35 online at Google play and will also be sold through Amazon and Best Buy in the US.
“Cast” icons built into applications for online video services YouTube and Netflix let people use smartphones, tablets or laptop computers to direct online videos to television screens.
“If you know how to use YouTube on your phone, you know how to use YouTube on your TV,” Queiroz said, while describing the vision behind Chromecast.
“Any device in your home can become a remote control for the television,” he said.
Google also made available a software kit for developers to synch mobile apps with Chromecast. Online radio streaming service Pandora is among those with Cast application features “in the works,” according to Google.
Google is also working to let people “cast” online content from Chrome Web browsers to televisions.
“We are paving the way for more apps to come,” Queiroz said. “Over time, we expect the technology to be embedded in a range of devices from our partners.”
The Nexus 7 ramps up Google’s challenge to Apple’s iPad with a slimmer tablet easily fit into a pocket or handbag and allow easy access to rich online content or services.
Nexus 7 is about two millimeters thinner and slightly narrower than its predecessor, which was released a year ago.
“It actually makes a huge difference when holding it in one hand; it fits more easily in a purse or jacket,” Android vice president Hugo Barra said.
Nexus 7 has a high-definition screen and speakers that allow for virtual surround-sound listening of films, games or music.
Nexus tablets will be available in three models, all with seven-inch high-resolution screens. Two Nexus 7 models will connect to the Internet just using Wi-Fi, while one will be synched to US high-speed telecom carrier networks.
Nexus 7 prices will start at US$229 and top out at US$349 in the US market. Wi-Fi-only versions will go on sale in the US on July 30, with Nexus 7 tablets to be released in France, Australia, Britain and South Korean in “coming weeks.”
Nexus 7 will be the first tablet powered by a new 4.3 version of the Android “Jelly Bean” mobile operating system.
“We from the Android team are investing a lot in tablets,” said Sundar Pichai, who heads the Android and Chrome teams at Google. “Almost one in two tablets sold worldwide is based on Android.”
More than 70 million tablets powered by Google’s Android software have been activated worldwide, according to Pichai.
Tablet shipments are expected to grow 67.9 percent to 202 million units this year, according to a Gartner report.