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Amazon's Kindle Fire was one of the hottest consumer electronics products this holiday shopping season. It was so hot, in fact, that according to investment bank Morgan Keegan, Amazon's new tablet may have displaced as many as 2m iPad sales.
And the Kindle Fire has company. Barnes & Noble's NOOK Color and NOOK Tablet devices are selling well, prompting speculation that the bookseller may spin off its NOOK unit after missing its sales targets.
The Kindle Fire and NOOK tablets are all built on custom versions of Google's Android operating system, raising the question: why doesn't Google build a tablet? After all, it's not new to hardware, having built a mobile phone and netbook-like device.
According to DigiTimes, that's precisely what Google may be planning to do. It reports:
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt has recently revealed that the company plans to launch a high quality tablet PC within the next six months, but since he did not provide any further detail about the device, it has left many players to believe that Google will copy its strategy from Nexus smartphone to help expanding Android tablet PC's market share.
DigiTime's sources say that the launch of this new tablet would come in either March or April, sport Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and have a price below $199.
An Ice Cream Sandwich tablet cheaper than the Kindle Fire would certainly be intriguing, but would it sell? Perhaps not as well as Google would like.
The reason: the success of the Kindle Fire and NOOK tablets has very little to do with hardware. Yes, the hardware has to be decent. But the reason consumers are buying these tablets is that they're channels for accessing attractive content ecosystems.
Google, of course, does play in the content space, but it's not clear that the company would be able to build a content-centric experience like Amazon and Barnes & Noble have. It also doesn't have a content brand; Amazon and Barnes & Noble do.
From this perspective, a Google tablet, no matter the price, may be a tough sell. It could also theoretically harm Android long-term. In the mobile space, the company's acquisition of Motorola Mobility already has other smartphone manufacturers worried.
And for good reason: it's somewhat awkward to be building your phones on top of software produced by the owner of one of your biggest hardware competitors.
By jumping into the tablet game in a big way in an effort to compete directly with another Android-based device, Google could create a similar situation.