nexus

Along with the Nexus Player, which disappointed, Google’s Nexus 9 was also recently released and reviewed. It’s been described as having an OK display; good but not jaw dropping performance; above average speakers; nice feel but with small, noticeable flaws; and generally not something that beats the iPad given its $400 price. Lollipop is awesome as expected.

That’s all well and good, but there are two things about the Nexus 9 I was particularly interested in from an industry point of view:

  1. The Nexus 9’s size and weight
  2. Its dedicated keyboard cover

Is the 9-inch display the best of two worlds, or the worst? Is the Nexus 9 an appreciably good productivity device?

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When Google announced its new Nexus line of products, I was most excited about the Nexus Player. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Google succeeded in creating a breakthrough product. Yet anyway.

Ars Technica has a great review which you can read here. The summary:

Unfortunately for Google’s living room ambitions, the Nexus Player isn’t very good. Despite the company’s experience with Google TV, the Nexus Player and Android TV are first-gen products with lots of first-gen problems. The hardware/software combo flops on many of the basics—such as playing video smoothly—and doesn’t deliver on any of the compelling experiences “Android on your TV” would seem able to provide. Apps and games are presumably supposed to be the big differentiator here from the Chromecast and Apple TV, but the Play Store interface is clunky and, instead of 1.4 million Android apps, you get access to about 70. It’s also pretty buggy.

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Google announced three new devices today: the Nexus 6, the Nexus 9 and Nexus Player. Of the three, I predict the Nexus Player will yield the greatest influence.

The Nexus 6 looks like a good phone but it now has a $650 price, which means it competes with all the other flagship phones. Chinese manufacturers like OnePlus and Xiaomi continue to offer the best performance-to-price ratio on the market.

The Nexus 9 wants to be a productivity device with its detachable keyboard, but its 9-inch display is simply too small for it to be a capable laptop replacement. It might fill a niche, but it won’t be the converged device I’m looking for.

Of the three Nexus devices announced today, the Nexus Player is the most interesting. It will compete with other streaming boxes like Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, WD TV, Boxee, et. al., but that’s the boring part. Where the Nexus Player has the potential to disrupt its competitors is in games, which Google is taking seriously enough to launch a dedicated game controller. Android’s already extensive game library will be the Nexus Player’s differentiator. Apple TV, your move.

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Some time ago, we wrote the following about the upcoming ecosystem war, which will be delineated by display size:

At this screen size, productivity is possible and most consumers will want to do some work with such a device. I’m seeing more people purchase keyboard covers for their iPads; and of course, 2-in-1 PCs address this segment as well. Going forward, no device in this [10- to 13-inch display size ] category will be purely about consumption or purely about work — consumers will expect to do both on a device this size. That is why Google acquired QuickOffice; Apple is rumored to debut a 12-inch iPad Pro soon; and why Microsoft is desperately courting developers to create for consumers.

Apple and Google seem to agree. With tablet sales leveling off; the 12.9-inch iPad Pro expected to launch soon; and Google and HTC developing a keyboard cover for the new, 9-inch Nexus; Apple and Google are moving into Microsoft’s traditional stronghold of devices designed for work.

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Mini tablets exploded at a time when 3.5-inch iPhones and 9.7-inch iPads were what’s most popular. There was a big gap between these two sizes: the iPhone was highly portable, but the screen meant bite-sized consumption; iPads were better for Internet browsing and games, but it was too large to easily carry around. Mini tablets fulfilled a market gap — a computing device small enough to hold with one hand that offered a better reading experience than phones could provide.

However, the world today is different. The 4-inch iPhone 5S is practically the smallest smartphone on the market, 5-inch phones are average and 5.5-inch phones are not uncommon. The trend to bigger screen sizes is apparent in the chart below:

Did you know that smartphone screens nearly doubled in size since 2007?

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I’ve wanted to write this for some time, but hadn’t because there was no solid data to back-up my assertions. I do now. This is about why I believe the future of tablets (and by extension, computing) is 15-inches in display size.

Let’s start with the origins of the modern tablet. The original iPad played such a strong role in shaping our perception of what a tablet should be, including a 9.7-inch display that we think of standard today. Apple arrived at that size because 9.7-inches was ideal given technology’s constraints at the time like weight, battery life and cost. It was the right size for 2010.

The iPad was never designed to be used primarily with one hand, unlike “mini” tablets of today. As Jobs demonstrated in his keynote, the iPad was meant to be used on the lap; or held with two hands; and only occasionally holding with one hand so the other can perform an action.

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