32GB Asus Nexus 7 kicks off Chrimbo tablet war

Earlier today, Google’s Play Store said the £199 16GB, Nexus 7 tablet was unavailable for purchase in the UK and elsewhere – and here’s why – Asus has just announced the 32GB version is on sale for the same price, in what can only be seen as the first blow in the fight for leading sales over Christmas.

The Nexus 7 was made available online from 4.30pm in the UK and can be bought at retailers such as PC World, Currys, Comet, Ebuy, Tesco, and the other usual culprits. Meanwhile, the 32GB edition with 3G connectivity will be made available through Three in the middle of November.

The Nexus 7 has received rave reviews so far, not least for its affordable price tag. Google was seen to be more in competition with Amazon’s Fire tablets, although undercutting Apple was an appealing side effect. Caught on the back foot, Apple rushed out the iPad Mini. Though the company previously followed the diktat of its late CEO Steve Jobs, who said a 7 inch tablet would never take off, market pressure appears to have forced its fruity hand into coming up with a device of its own.

£199 is about as cheap as it gets for a premium tablet with this spec, and it doesn’t come as much of a surprise the flagship Google device – made by Asus – is targeting the lower end of the pricing spectrum in time for Christmas. As the days count down to the traditional spending hike, the competition will undoubtedly increase as manufacturers try to outperform each other on pricing to seduce the cash-strapped western consumer.

It certainly seems that the tablet wars are heating up. Apple has failed to drum up as much hype as it is used to without the reassuring arrogance of its late CEO and super-salesman Steve Jobs on board.  Rather than delivering on innovation, Apple has spent much of its time waging costly skirmishes against former allies, such as chasing Samsung around the globe with a string of patent infringement accusations. The detonator on thermonuclear war turned out to be a dud.

Amazon and Google, however, are looking increasingly like the two top contenders, especially considering their devices ship with more reasonable price tags and, crucially, they are more open. Indeed, jailbreaking an iPad has just been made illegal by US law.

We haven’t forgotten Microsoft’s Surface. But that particularly device strikes us more as an experiment – and one that will hit the consumer in the pocket.

Where does this leave the Ultrabook? Well, the price is still very much through the roof, and until something remarkable reaches the market, it looks like Intel’s ultrathins will be sitting on the sideline – at least over the Christmas period. Vendors have been hoping Windows 8 could bring more consumer interest to the woeful PC market, but so far, reception has been lukewarm. PC makers will have to come up with some special goods to win market share back and we know they will be trying with hybrid devices and more, otherwise it’s boom or bust and back to the drawing board.