Google's $199 tablet is official; you can pre-order one now

Everyone was expecting Google to unveil a new tablet at its I/O developer conference this morning, and the company didn't disappoint. It pulled back the curtain on the Nexus 7, a seven-inch device designed in collaboration with Asus. The Nexus 7 starts at $199, and you can pre-order one right now from the Google Play store (just so long as you live in the U.S., Canada, UK, or Australia). Shipments are scheduled to kick off in the middle of next month.

The Nexus 7 pretty much matches the rumor mill's descriptions to a tee. It has an IPS display with a 1280x800 resolution, and it's powered by a quad-core Tegra 3 processor with 1GB of RAM. The device comes with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and Micro USB connectivity, and it features a front-facing 1.2-megapixel webcam. Google claims the battery is good for up to eight hours of active use or nine hours of video playback. 8GB and 16GB versions of the device are available, both weighing in at 0.75 lbs (340 g) with a thickness of 0.41". The higher-capacity model will set you back $249.

Google will be shipping the Nexus 7 with the next version of its mobile operating system: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. This morning's Google I/O keynote included a Jelly Bean demo with a showcase of the new features. Apparently, the new mobile OS will feature substantial improvements to touch responsiveness and animation fluidity, thanks in part to the implementation of vsync and triple buffering. Jelly Bean will also have a new search interface (with interactive voice controls and text-to-speech answers), souped-up notifications (which show more information and can be customized), improved autocorrect, offline speech recognition, and a new feature called Google Now, which will let your phone do things like keep track of flights and tell you when to leave for meetings in order to get there on time.

Google expects to deliver Jelly Bean as an over-the-air update next month. Other Android devices will presumably get the upgrade, too, although knowing Android hardware makers, some folks might have to wait a while.

Oh, and one last thing to sweeten the pot: Google says the Nexus 7 will come with a $25 Google Play store credit, as well as a free movie (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), a free book (The Bourne Dominion), and some free music. I think I heard exactly one person hoot in excitement when Google announced the title of the free film. The store credit sounds like a nice way to draw users away from the Kindle Fire, though.

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