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Google's Nexus 7 tablet pops up in rare home-page ad

Google is actually touting a product on its home page, which is traditionally free of advertisements.

Screenshot taken by Roger Cheng/CNET

Google really wants people to take a look at its Nexus 7 tablet.

The $199 tablet started popping up on Google's home page today, a rare instance in which Google is actively promoting one of its own products. It's similar to the way Amazon's front page is often dominated by Kindle advertising.

That Google would go to such lengths underscores the company's desire to make a bigger dent in the burgeoning tablet market, one still dominated by Apple's iPad. Given the traffic that goes through Google, the home page would be one of the most coveted spots on the Web for advertisers. The company, however, has traditionally resisted attempts to run advertisements for paid products on its main page. 

Only the top part of the Nexus 7 peeks out in a tease, along with a link to the 8GB version in its Google Play store.

It isn't the first time Google has promoted a product, although it is a rare occasion. The first time a Google product showed up on the home page was in late 2009 with the original Droid from Motorola and Verizon Wireless.

A few months later, when the company was trying to push its Nexus One phone directly to consumers, that product popped up. The phone, though, became a commercial failure.

The Nexus 7, while built by Asus, is the first tablet developed under Google, and is the first device to run Android 4.1, or Jelly Bean, the latest iteration of Google's mobile operating system.

Google yesterday expanded the availability of the Nexus 7, launching the tablet in Germany, France, and Spain. It's already available in several other countries, including the U.S. and the U.K.

While many Android tablets have tried and failed to make a dent in the market, Amazon last year made some waves with its $199 Kindle Fire. Google is hoping it can surpass that success with its own product, and so far has seen a lot of early buzz.

The Nexus 7 faces lots of competition. The next iteration of the Kindle Fire is expected to be announced next week, and many expect Apple to unveil its own iPad Mini soon.

Corrected at 7:55 a.m. PT: The article incorrectly stated that the Nexus 7 ad was the first ever to pop up on Google's home page.