Will Google’s Nexus 7 rule the tablet world?

Google finally announced its long-rumored Nexus 7 tablet Wednesday and we know the price points, the size and the features.

What we don’t know is the answer to a big question: Will Nexus rule the tablet world?

The Nexus 7 looks like a strong contender to Apple’s popular iPad and the upcoming Microsoft Surface. And it surely buries most if not all of the existing Android tablets out there, save perhaps the Samsung Galaxy models.

Nexus is specifically designed to work with Google’s online app store, Google Play, which sells movies, music, apps, books and other content. It’s Google’s version of Apple’s App Store and the Amazon Store, which helps fill up the Kindle and Kindle Fire tablets. Nexus will marry to the Google App Store the way the iPad does with Apple’s, and that’s a good thing.

Nexus has a 7-inch screen like Kindle Fire, which is smaller than the nearly 10-inch iPad, but the Nexus will ship next month at $199 or $249, the same price as the Fire, and substantially less than the third generation iPad, which starts at $499. Customers can buy the iPad 2, which debuted in March 2011, for $399.

Nexus will also be the lightest of the “Big 3”. iPad weights about a 1.5 pounds. Kindle Fire is 0.9 pounds. Nexus 7 is 0.75.

Several analysts believe to sell at the price point its introducting Nexus 7 at, Google will have to subsidize the tablet, or sell at a loss, hoping to regain costs in Google Play sales. The Nexus 7 is made by AsusTek Computer.

With all the millions of tablet and smartphone sales out there already, the potential audience is still far greater than the audience that has the devices, so as popular as, say, iPad is, there’s still room to sweep in and overtake it. It’ll take the right strategy, and that strategy begins at price point. Google has a very aggressive price point.

But there is another thing to consider: the ecosystem.

If you are heavy into Amazon products, it may be tough to switch to Apple or Google which have their own sell/buy systems. If your iPhone is full of Apple-branded apps, say, you can’t port those over to Google, or vice versa, even if they are the same game or app. This is where Google is weak. It’s tablet apps are slim, especially compared to Apple.

So people who have started with one system are probably more likely to stay with it. Google must play catchup there. And that will play into tablet choices for those who have smartphones already. We don’t think this is as big an issue in the PC world since Apps aren’t quite as big there, though Apple is trying to gain ground with online app sales for its Mac line of computers. You’re more likely to see a guy with a Mac laptop and an Android phone than an Android phone and an iPad, for example.

Ultimately, though, user experience is the biggest sales card. Google is taking big steps to improve the user experience. Like Apple has done for years, Google is controlling the hardware side. It’s got its hand in product development unlike in the past when its lent software on signature devices and let other manufacturers control the hardware (see Xoom, Motorola).

On the Jelly Bean operating system, for example, you can drag widgets (essentially small snapshots of apps) to your homescreen and they will resize themselves. Nexus has a front facing camera, which Kindle Fire does not, and its got vocal search to match Apple’s Siri voice assistant.

Apple’s user experience is exquisite as has been the company’s selling point for years. Google is gaining ground with its Android software and Android is what powers Nexus 7. Android is the world’s most popular mobile operating system as Google offers it free to device manufacturers who install it on all manner of phones. So a lot of people know Android, and that will help sell a smooth operating device that delivers what it promises.

We haven’t had a long term test with Nexus yet, but early indications indicate it’s a device that does just what Google promises.

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