HTC is gearing up production of a Nexus 9 tablet device to showcase the Android operating system, a report from the Wall Street Journal claims. The report follows earlier rumors that this would be the case, and suggests a Nexus 9 from the Taiwanese device maker is almost a lock. But HTC is a strange bedfellow for Google in this case – the OEM swore off tablets altogether back in 2011.
A Nexus 9 from HTC would make a lot of sense from Google’s perspective: Partnering with the company would give kudos to the work it has done progressing Android device design with its HTC One range of smartphones, which remain among the best Android hardware available in terms of the quality of their build. And it would mean avoiding leaning too heavily on existing Nexus partners like Samsung and LG. It would also mean a return to the source – HTC crafted the first consumer Android device, after all.
HTC hasn’t made a tablet since its failed Flyer, however, and that means it’s been out of the game for a few years. The company ceased its tablet production plans after finding a hard time gaining any significant traction, but noted back they made the move official in 2012 that it could re-enter the market if it believes it could significantly contribute to the space. The company also said that it would be “watching [tablets] very, very closely” in the meantime.
Pairing with Google on a re-entry to the market does a couple of things for HTC: First, it gives it a bump in terms of marketing and distribution channels. Second, it alleviates a big chunk of the risk, as no one expects Nexus devices to be huge sellers, and Google shoulders at least some of the responsibility for the devices.
Whether or not a Nexus 9 can do well is another question altogether. Android tablets have been making progress over time, but there still isn’t a single model you can point to as a true competitor to Apple’s iPad. An HTC Nexus slate is also unlikely to rise to such lofty heights, but if the company can manage to pull off a tablet as well-designed as the HTC One, we should see something that can at least inject some life into a somewhat tired category.