HTC engineers already working with Google on Nexus 9, report says

A new report says HTC is set to make the new Nexus 9 despite a lack of experience in building tablets.

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2010's Google Nexus One, the first Nexus device and the last to be built by HTC. CNET

HTC is set to make the Google Nexus 9 tablet, its first Nexus device since the Nexus One, according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google has chosen HTC as the manufacturer to build the new Nexus, with HTC's engineers already visiting the Big G's headquarters, the Googleplex.

What makes this interesting is the fact that HTC, unlike rivals in the Android ecosystem such as Samsung, doesn't currently sell a tablet. In fact, the only time the Taiwanese company has dabbled in tablets was back in 2011 in the days of Honeycomb, the short-lived version of Google's Android operating system designed specifically for tablets. The HTC Flyer was one of the earlier 7-inch tablets, but neither the Flyer nor the HTC Jetstream managed to soar to great heights.

However, Google has a tradition of recruiting different manufacturers to build new Nexus devices. The first Nexus 7 7-inch tablet was built by Asus, while the 10-inch Nexus 10 was made by Samsung. Nexus smartphones have also been manufactured by Samsung and LG, but the first Google Nexus One was built by HTC in 2010.

Rumours of an HTC tablet have floated around for a while, and recently that gossip has included a possible Nexus tablet from the manufacturer. Rumours suggest a device purportedly codenamed Volantis could be HTC's return to larger mobile devices.

"Given the challenges HTC has faced over the last 18 months it will be delighted," said analyst Ben Wood of CCS Insight on the company's likely reaction to being selected for the latest Nexus-branded tablet. Wood added that the relationship will benefit both sides: "Google has a mountain to climb," says Wood, "in the premium tablet segment currently dominated by Apple. So far Google has not been able to mirror the spectacular success it has had with Android on smartphones...Google will be hoping that HTC's legendary hardware prowess will help make the new Nexus tablet stands out from the crowd."

HTC and Google declined to comment on this latest report.

The Nexus 9 is expected some time in mid-October, and may well herald the next generation of Android. We're up to 'L' in the alphabet, but we've no idea what the sweet-themed name will be. Lollipop? Lemon Meringue Pie? Lamington?

Whatever it's called, a combination of brand new Android software, cutting-edge specs and friendly pricing means Nexus devices tend to be popular, so this could be a big deal for HTC; the troubled company has had a tough time turning critical acclaim for the excellent HTC One into sales.

Update, 9:51 a.m. PT: Adds comment from CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood.