Next week, search juggernaut Google (GOOGL 0.58%) will officially kick off Google I/O, its annual developer conference where it's expected to show off the latest and greatest Android developments. The event will be held at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco, the same venue where Apple (AAPL 0.32%) and Microsoft are hosting their own respective developer conferences next month.
On the hardware front, Google may unveil a second-generation Nexus 7 to follow up the success of its first flagship tablet. After Amazon.com demonstrated that there's considerable interest for a $200 7-inch tablet, Google jumped right in.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has made a name for himself by accurately calling Apple moves in advance. Kuo's supply chain sources now reiterate prior rumors that Google has switched from NVIDIA (NVDA -0.87%) to Qualcomm (QCOM -1.26%) for the brains of the new tablet. The next Nexus 7 might be powered by a Snapdragon instead of a Tegra this time around, and ship in June or July.
That's entirely reasonable, since NVIDIA made a conscious choice to push out its Tegra 4 schedule in order to pull in the Tegra 4i release. NVIDIA has been anxious to get into the integrated LTE game to challenge Qualcomm, and it was a necessary trade off that would inevitably translate into sacrificing some near-term design wins to accelerate the 4i's time to market. That strategic decision is largely why Tegra revenue dropped 22.2% to $103.1 million last quarter, and Tegra 4 sales aren't expected to ramp until the second half.
Asus is also expected to continue building the tablet. The OEM has benefited greatly from the Nexus partnership, with tablet volumes soaring ever since the Nexus 7 launched last summer.
Google is expected to bolster the display resolution to 1,920 x 1,200 for the 7-inch display. There should be some improvements in thickness and weight, and Google is likely going to stand pat at the $199 price point. That would translate into a loss of $5 to $10 per unit.
The iPad Mini is putting pressure on the low-end, but a Nexus 7 refresh could strengthen Google's defense. Apple isn't expected to release Retina iPad Minis until this fall, giving Google a couple of months. Microsoft is also about to move downmarket with a rumored 7.5-inch Surface, in recognition of the growing consumer preference toward smaller tablets.