Weekend Roundup: New Google Nexus 7 tablet, Google Chromecast, Sky’s £10 wonder box and Apple’s earnings results

New Google Nexus 7, Chromecast and Android 4.3

I’m going to eat my humble pie. I was not expecting Google to come up with a tablet as good as the new Nexus 7. This is a £199 tablet that comes with the highest pixel density of any traditional models on the market and is essentially an LG Nexus 4 smartphone with a bigger display and no voice capabilities. It is thinner, lighter and more expensive than the existing Nexus 7 and you can get the 4G version for a whopping £299, making it the cheapest 4G tablet on the market at the time of writing.

Last month, I wrongly claimed that the Asus MeMoPad HD7 might be the true follow-up to the Nexus 7. Turned out that Google was more ambitious than I was. The MemoPad HD7 is actually a refined version of the original Nexus 7 at a much lower price point and without the (minor) quirks that afflicted Google’s ground-breaking tablet.

The second iteration of the Nexus 7 is as jaw dropping as the first one although it will not meet with the same success as the first because (a) rivals are likely to quickly catch up (b) this model is more expensive. Still kudos to Google for delivering a second generation mainstream tablet that continues to pile pressure on its rivals.

Another announcement that took place at Pichai’s breakfast event was the launch of the Chromecast TV dongle. This is essentially a glorified HDMI dongle like the one we saw back in April, one that is essentially an ARM-based tablet without a battery and a display. It allows Android device owners to make their television sets smarter, on a budget. It is the right heir of the beleaguered Google TV, the direct competitor to the Apple TV and the final nail into the coffin of so-called smart TVs.

Expect many clones especially from South East Asia to follow suit and unveil similar products, all based on the same embedded version of Chrome OS, which, we should remember is the other mobile open-source operating system from Google. Which brings us very nicely to Android 4.3 which was officially unveiled at the same event and looks more like an evolutionary, intermediate step, one that prepares for the big Kahuna, Android 5.0. Unsurprisingly, it still retains the moniker “Jelly Bean”.

Sky’s surprising £10 box

This week also saw the launch of Sky’s NOW TV box. It is a £10 box that transforms your television into an internet-connected smart TV. Once installed, it offers free access to Sky News, BBC iPlayer, BBC News, Demand 5, Spotify, Facebook and flickr with additional content likely to come later (ITV, Channel 4 possibly). The device looks like an entry level, dumbed-down version of the Sky Box. You won’t be able to record anything but you will still get access to Sky Sports and Sky Movies (at a cost). It is a rebranded and customized Roku box (the LT), one which retails for £50. Sky made a significant investment in Roku last year so it is not surprising to see that NOWTV box landing now. The NOW TV box is an interesting venture along the lines of the Chromecast and one which contrasts starkly with the strategy adopted by rivals such as Virgin Media or Talktalk. We’re set to get a hands-on one of those boxes next week and will evaluate what else it can do followed by a teardown.

Apple’s splendid summer sizzlers

Last week saw the announcement by Apple, of its third quarter results, one which saw Apple sell of its iPad tablets and iPhone smartphones, a lot less (around 46 million compared to 57 million last quarter). Perhaps more importantly though, profits for the quarter, while still representing a chunky £4.5 billion, were down Y-o-Y and Q-o-Q by a long, long way. Which goes to prove that competitors (Samsung being the most aggressive) may finally be getting the upper hand as Apple’s revenue-to-profit ratio increases from 3.97:1 to 5.11:1. We’ve seen that Apple has had to be much more aggressive when it comes to pricing. We’ve seen iPhone 5 handsets starting from under £400, a massive discount compared to the SRP, something unheard of in the early days of the iPhone. Ditto for the average entry level contract prices which have fallen from high £30s to as little as £25 per month. Perhaps more worrying for Apple though is that the company launched a brand advertising campaign, its first in recent memories and an acknowledgement by the firm that it is probably not as invincible as many would have thought.