Google Inc., trying to match its success in smartphones, stepped up its challenge to Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. in the $66.4 billion tablet market with the Nexus 7, a $199 device that sports a slim 7-inch screen.
The tablet will feature the latest version of the Android operating system, called Jelly Bean, the company said at its Google I/O developers conference today in San Francisco. Google also showed a spherical $299 home-entertainment device called Nexus Q, which lets users stream music and video.
Google is on the hunt for ways to fuel sales of tablets, a fast-growing market that may almost double this year to 118.9 million units, according to Gartner Inc. Though Google has used Android to take the lead in smartphones, tablets based on the software have amassed less than half the share of Apple’s iPad -- and it will soon confront added pressure from Microsoft Corp., which unveiled its own tablet last week.
“The tablet market is a major challenge for Google at this point,”said Clayton Moran, a Delray Beach, Florida-based analyst at Benchmark Co. “They need to have a competitive product with the iPad.”
Shares of Google, based in Mountain View, California, gained less than 1 percent to $569.30 at the close in New York. The stock has fallen 12 percent this year.
The Nexus 7 tablet, to be available in July, is being made in partnership with Taiwan’s Asustek Computer Inc. It has a front-facing camera and runs on a Tegra 3 processor from Nvidia Corp., Google said today. The Jelly Bean version of Android provides faster speeds and other advances, including improvements to voice-based search.
“It’s a beautiful 7-inch tablet,” Hugo Barra, Google’s director of product management, said at the event. “It’s super- thin, light and portable -- and yet we’re managed to pack a lot into this device.”
Google Play, the company’s marketplace for Android applications and games, will add tools to enable users to buy movies, TV shows and magazines, the company said. Nexus 7 is available for preorder today on Google Play in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia.
The worldwide tablet market is estimated to reach $66.4 billion this year, up from $44.9 billion in 2011, according to research firm DisplaySearch.