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Google may enter tablet market with 7-inch design

Google is set to dip its toes in the tablet market with a 7-inch design later this year, says an analyst.

The Google tablet would be in the same size class as Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet.
The Google tablet would be in the same size class as Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet.

Wondering when Google is going to jump into the tablet fray? It may happen later this year, a DisplaySearch analyst told CNET.

The Google-branded tablet will have a 1280x800 resolution 7-inch display, according to Richard Shim, an analyst with DisplaySearch. Production is slated for April. The initial production run is between 1.5 million to 2 million units, according to Shim.

By comparison, the 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire has a 1024x600 display.

Shim's comments follow a January Asia-based report that said the Google tablet will run Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" and be priced around $199 to compete with Amazon's Kindle Fire.

However, Shim said it is not clear how Google will market the device. "I don't know how they plan on marketing it. If it's going to be a premium device, or if it's going to be a Kindle Fire type competitor," he said.

Whatever the case, after Google completes the planned acquisition of Motorola, it will instantly gain ownership of three tablets: the original 10.1-inch Xoom, the 10.1-inch Xyboard (aka Xoom 2), and the 8.2-inch Xyboard. Why Google feels it needs to have a 7-inch device too is not clear.

But the relative success of the 7-inch Kindle Fire could be one reason. Amazon shipped 5.3 million Fires in the fourth quarter, according to DisplaySearch's numbers. Though those numbers are only shipments (not sales), a report from Barclays Capital's Anthony DiClemente estimated Kindle Fire sales at five million units. Only Apple's iPad has exceeded that level of sales and shipments in that short of a time period.

And the small-screen tablet market could get crowded very quickly. A smaller iPad is now in the testing stage, according to a Taipei-based research firm as well as other Asia-based sources.

That Apple tablet, if it becomes a real product, likely won't appear until late this year. Presumably giving Google time to test its design before a smaller Apple tablet hits the market.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.