Asus Chairman Jonney Shih told AllThingsD on Wednesday that Google only gave his company four months to build the just-revealed 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet. Not only that, but Google tasked the company to produce a high-end product for just under $200. Shih even went so far as to describe Google as "demanding."
"Our engineers said it is like torture," Shih said in an interview on Wednesday. "They demand a lot."
Internally, the Nexus 7 tablet was called "Project A-Team" at Asus, and involved workers spread out across various locations, including Silicon Valley. This latter location allowed the team to work closely with Google while the global spread enabled Asus to carry out a 24-hour development cycle. But eventually that wasn't enough, as the company needed an additional 20 people on the project, and then another 20 on top of that.
Google, despite its demanding nature, was highly impressed at how Asus pulled off a top-quality project so quickly. "I don’t think there would have been any other partner that could move that fast," Google's Andy Rubin said. "We went from zero to working product in four months."
While Asus cranked out the hardware, Google focused on beefing up its content package. As we've stressed in previous topics, Google lagged behind Amazon and Apple in the content department. Sure, it offered movies to rent, music you can buy, and books to read. But it lacked magazines, TV shows and movies you can actually purchase.
Rubin admitted that he was upset last year when Android tablets weren't flying off store shelves like iPads. He eventually figured out that hardware was great for smartphones, but consumers wanted the hardware and multimedia content on tablets. He realized that the Android Market -- now Google Play -- lacked key components to successfully sell Android hardware -- key components that are now available.
With the Nexus 7, Google and Asus feel like they have reached a happy medium by offering high-end hardware while keeping the price at a competitive level with Amazon's Kindle Fire. It comes packed with Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 SoC, a 7-inch 1280 x 800 HD IPS protected by Corning glass, 1 GB of RAM, 802.11 b/g/n connectivity and other high-end features.
For now, Google is selling the Nexus 7 online through Google Play although the company plans to offer the tablet through retail outlets later on. The device is essentially sold at cost for now while Google absorbs the marketing costs associated with the device. "When it gets sold through the Play store, there’s no margin," Rubin said. "It just basically gets (sold) through."
As for Google selling its own Android tablet despite seemingly competing with its tablet partners, Rubin said there is plenty of room left for Android tablet innovation.