Skip to main content

Asus: It Was Pure Torture to Build Google's Tablet

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.

  • Onus
    As a successful company, I doubt Asus would have taken on the project if they did not believe it would serve their best interests. Hopefully it has, and they have produced a good product. The price looks appropriate for a content-consumption device.
    Reply
  • NuclearShadow
    It may not be the best tablet but for that cheap price tag it is very attractive. The tablet market is just getting better and better for the consumer.
    Reply
  • hoofhearted
    I'm confused. I went to the Play store on my Android phone and could not find this for sale. I saw no hardware, but just digital content (apps, games, movies, books, music and such). I even did a search on Nexus. Is there another Play store for this?
    Reply
  • hoofhearted
    nm, found it via webbrowser --> google.com/play
    Reply
  • mcd023
    ummm, so how is Asus gonna make any money if they sell it at cost? Did I miss something?
    Reply
  • punahou1
    I find it hard to believe that they were not planning for this many many months before the deal was signed. It makes a good story but I dare say there is little truth behind it actually being "four months".
    Reply
  • Asus is not selling them Google is, by that I mean any profit margin for Asus has already been worked out at least on the first run. Google its selling them at Google's cost the profit for them is in content sales and market share.
    Reply
  • pocketdrummer
    Google Play is going to fail as long as they refuse to compete with Apple's offerings at a similar price. Why rent an SD video on google when you can get the HD version for the same price in iTunes?

    I don't like Apple as a company, but I'm getting really irritated that other companies aren't doing enough to stay competitive.
    Reply
  • pocketdrummer
    Nevermind, it looks like they fixed the prices since I last tried it.
    Reply
  • daglesj
    I bet Microsoft is now looking at its Tablets it has lined up for Xmas and is thinking of having a fire sale.

    If we have such a tablet as the Nexus 7 for that price in July, god knows what else we'll have by December.
    Reply