Thursday, July 25, 2013

No news is good news

I have been thinking of buying a Nexus 7 for a while now. My only fear: it has been around for a while and I risked buying something that would become obsolete (for the dystopian future I described earlier has not come true yet) shortly after. Now all my problems have been solved.

It may come off as hypocritical that I'm satisfied with yesterday's announcements from Google considering the hard time I've given to Apple or Microsoft for aping each other and releasing incremental upgrades. None, I repeat, none of yesterday's announcements where anywhere in the neighborhood of innovative or mind-blowing. Some - Chromecast - where even in the "we screwed up before, let us do what the others are doing now" neighborhood. But I am happy nonetheless.

In the case of the Nexus 7, it's because I'm selfish, I want to buy a 7 inch tablet when I go to New York in September and I'll now be able to buy arguably the best 7 inch tablet in the market. Google fixed everything that needed fixing (mainly the screen and LTE connectivity) and even threw in some perks such as wireless connectivity (more on that later) - though the lack of NFC is puzzling. All in all, a nice incremental upgrade, and evolution (if that) rather than a revolution.

The thing is, I don't think Google expected to have such a hit with the original Nexus 7.

Previous Android tablets - the failed Motorola Xoom and the unremarkable Samsung Galaxy Tab - had failed to make a dent in the iPad's turf, and I think no one was expecting a) that Android could stop sucking (something the world started to suspect with the Nexus S and that Jelly Bean reaffirmed) and b) that 7 inch tablets could work. As I have said before, tablets are rarely used for more than web surfing, e-reading and silly game playing - turns out you don't need 10 inches for that. On that note, the later Nexus 7 3G edition hit an even sweeter spot. So as I said, Google must have not expected such success. The Nexus 7 became both the 7 inch tablet (forcing Apple to step up with the iPad mini) and the Android tablet (yet to be beaten - his big brother, the Nexus 10, hasn't been as successful). This lack of preparation in Google's part resulted in not a lot of official communication - the tablet was divulged more by the good reviews and word of mouth than an actual marketing effort from Google. The Nexus line was always meant to be a niche, an example to be followed, not to be in the actual spotlight (one that Samsung became very comfortable with  in the Android world).

The difference between then and now is tangible - just look at this new Nexus 7 commercial, "Fear Less":

The whole video, from lighting to acting to theme, music and most specially the line at the end, "Made for what matters" (arguably even the fact that the video is named "Fear Less" and not just "The new Nexus 7) strongly recalls Apple's, and to some degree Microsoft's, marketing strategies (on the other hand, the Nexus' website, which for me was a strong point, has gotten a little bit shallower and less explanatory). This time, Google was prepared for success. It's a good sign, it shows that there may be,you know, actual plans for this thing, that Page and the likes are paying attention (lets just hope this doesn't go the Apple way and selling, talking and showing become more important than actual good products - let Samsung do that, guys. You should still be at the vanguard of innovation - the Nexus line should remain the beacon of what Android devices should be).

So I for one, can forgive Google for taking time to get it more right this time, tweaking a good product to become a perfect product - one more product launch like this, though, and things will start going south. On the Android side of things, though, criticism is due: a .1 increment? Really? What is this? The kids customization thing is a complete ripoff of Kid's Corner in Windows Phone (and, if I were to rip things off Windows Phone I would definitely not start on Kid's Corner), and Bluetooth support... who cares that much? Jelly Bean is great but please, there are so many things to fix and create in the mobile world!

Now for Chromecast - Google is getting used to admitting mistakes. Google+ (which I won't call a success but, I mean, it's ok) came to replace the failed Orkut and the Google Buzz catastrophe - it can't be easy to admit publicly you have to start over because you stroke out twice. Yet Google is now recognizing that Google TV was unusable and was not worth investing on anymore, and that the Nexus Q was a disaster - they even made it obsolete with the last update to Play. Is Chromecast the answer to all our problems? No, because we already had the answer - mainly the Apple TV and the Xbox (more so in this case, because though everybody keeps forgetting this, Xbox Smartglass is multiplatform, while AirPlay is not - Chromecast is not innovating in this regard). But you now, it's infinitely smaller than these two, it plays things from the cloud... it's kind of cute. I'm interested to see where Google will take this. I can certainly see myself having this instead of the Xbox One's VCR-like shape next to my TV.

All in all, Google is aping Microsoft and Apple.

And for now, it's kind of OK. Just let's not make it a habit. We need a three horse race, not an imitation game.

On a completely (not so) unrelated subject, here's what I'm planning my device ecosystem looks like when I'm back from New York and Europe:

- Nokia Lumia 920: yes, this one's a keeper. I'll wait a long while before switching. What I'll do, though, is buy the Wireless charger, the JBL Wireless Speaker and the Purity Pro NFC headphones, welcoming a wireless ecosystem into my world. The Nexus 7, thus, will fit right in.

- New Nexus 7 with 4G: I'll be trading in my Microsoft RT. As Paul Thurrot (violently) put it, this thing hasn't yet reached the sweet spot. It's too big and heavy for a tablet, Windows RT is slow, I don't dare carry it around in my commute (and really, what's a tablet for if not that) and I use it mainly for reading and light web surfing. If I were an Office heavy user, it would make sense, but I've used it (and the Type Cover) like two times. It's not the tablet for me. The Nexus 7 with 4G, on the other hand, is. It's insanely cheap, light, discrete, and has cellular connectivity, so commuting with makes a lot of sense. And it will be the perfect way to keep up with Android and innovations like Google Now without being committed to it - as I would be with an Android smartphone. I fear I'll have to buy this in London rather than New York as Brazilian LTE works in the 2.5 Ghz frequency - something the American version won't support. But the European version is also more expensive, so perhaps I'll just buy it in NY and use it in with 3G.

- Sony Vaio Pro 13: It's no secret I've been craving for an ultrabook. After much consideration, I decided to let go of my beloved HP Pavilion Desktop and just buy an ultrabook and, when I'm home, hook it up to a big monitor and use the wonderful Microsoft Wedge mouse and keyboard. The Sony Vaio Pro is the one that caught my eye and the one I'll be taking back with me on my trip.

Note: of course this can all change from here to September, but this my plan now. During the weekend I'll write a What I Own post to give you an overview of my earthly possessions.

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