SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google is expected to unveil a mini-tablet computer bearing its brand to kick off a conference showcasing its latest products and innovations.
If speculation about the long-rumored device pan out, the Google tablet is likely be seen more of a threat to Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle Fire than Apple Inc.'s top-selling iPad. More details should emerge Wednesday morning during the opening speech of a three-day conference that has attracted thousands of computer programmers to San Francisco.
Google hasn't revealed who will be delivering Wednesday's news. It won't be CEO Larry Page. The company, based in Mountain View, Calif., last week revealed that Page won't speak at the conference because he recently lost his voice due to an unspecified health problem that's not serious enough prevent him from carrying out his duties as CEO.
A Google expansion into the rapidly growing tablet market would bring another imposing entrant into what is already a battle of tech heavyweights. Microsoft Corp., the world's largest software maker, announced it was joining the fray last week with a tablet called Surface. Microsoft's tablet, expected to hit the market this fall, will run on a dramatically revamped version of Windows and take dead aim at Apple's iPad.
Like the Kindle Fire, the Google tablet is believed to have a 7-inch screen — smaller than the iPad's nearly 10-inch display. If it's the smaller size, Google's tablet probably would be in the same price range as the Kindle Fire, which sells for $199.
Although the tablet is supposed to carry the Google brand and be sold by the company, the machine will be made by AsusTek Computer Inc., according to published reports citing unnamed people familiar the product. Google Inc. also recently expanded into the device-making business with its $12.5 billion acquisition of smartphone and tablet maker Motorola Mobility Holdings, but the company has stressed that it intends to continue to rely on other manufacturers such as Asus that have embraced Android.
The new tablet is expected to be called the Nexus Seven, a reference to a line of smartphones that Google developed to run on its Android software for mobile phones. The Nexus phones have been made by a variety of manufacturers, too.
Google originally sold the first Nexus phone two years ago exclusively in an online store, but scrapped that idea after a few months.
There are already other Android-powered tablets on the market, but none have proven nearly as popular as the iPad or Kindle Fire. That has raised worries at Google as more people rely on tablets to surf the Internet.
If Apple and Amazon establish themselves as the dominant tablet makers, they could set up their operating systems in ways that de-emphasize Google's Internet search engine and other services.
Apple already has announced the next version of the iPad operating system will abandon Google's digital maps as the built-in navigation system. That shift could cause neighborhood merchants to spend less money advertising on Google.
Google's new tablet is expected to be the first to run on the next version of Android, known as "Jelly Bean." The new features in the upgraded system are expected to be previewed during the conference.
Analysts are also speculating Google that will introduce another long-rumored product, a home-entertainment system for streaming music.
Google also could provide a glimpse at a pair of Internet-connected glasses that it eventually hopes to market as a way to continuously filter and share life through the Web.