GOOGLE opened two new fronts in the computer hardware wars on Wednesday with the launch of a new 7-inch tablet and a living-room media device running its latest Android software that it hopes will challenge Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.
At its annual developer conference in San Francisco, Google unveiled the $199 Nexus 7 tablet, built in partnership with Asus, the Taiwanese manufacturer.
The Nexus 7 runs Google's new Jelly Bean version of Android and undercuts the $399 price of Apple's entry-level iPad.
Google also showed off a new media-streaming device, the Nexus Q. The two devices illustrate how software and internet companies such as Google and Microsoft are shifting towards building their own desirable hardware that taps their users' cloud-based media, aping Apple's longstanding approach of integrated technology and content.
Microsoft last week launched its Surface tablet, stressing the desirability of its magnesium-alloy casing and taking its first big step into computer hardware design to complement the latest version of its Windows operating system.
The wireless, spherical Nexus Q was "not just another black box", Google said, while stressing the media capabilities of the Nexus 7, which it said had a high-definition display, fast graphics chips and was the weight of a paperback book.
In an effort to catch up with what analysts have seen as Apple and Amazon's advantage in content for tablets, Google announced new TV and movie deals with studios including Disney, NBCUniversal and Paramount, as well as a range of magazines available on its Google Play app store, through new deals with publishers such as Hearst and Condé Nast.
The tablet will ship in mid-July to the US, UK and other countries. Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey said Google was learning lessons from Amazon, which also offers a $199 tablet, based on Android. "Google can see that the only way to beat the premium-worthy iPad is to go for the millions of customers who are ready for smaller and cheaper tablets and then grow those customers into more Android-powered devices," he said.
"That range of services will be the secret to stitching together this ragtag fleet of Android gadgets into a platform that can compete with Apple for minutes of users' attention rather than premium-device dollars."