Google and Microsoft announce tablet, smartphone updates

A few days after Apple unveiled its new iPad Mini tablet, Google has announced some updates to its own line Nexus tablets. 

The iPad Mini, launched last week by Apple, was seen by many observers as an attempt to stave off competition to its iPad from smaller, less expensive devices like Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD. Both of those tablets feature 7-inch screens and cost $199.

With a 7.9-inch screen and a starting price of $329, the iPad offers a middle ground between the original iPad and those new tablets — in terms of both size and price.

The iPad Mini also features a number of optional upgrades: The device is available with 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB of storage, and in a Wi-Fi-only version or one with 4G cellular data capability.

Those options could be a potential advantage for Apple, as some buyers may prefer spending more for increased storage or cellular data.

Shortly after the iPad Mini launch, however, Google raised the stakes again by announcing an upgraded Nexus 7 tablet, as well as a new device called the Nexus 10.

The upgraded Nexus 7 will cost $299 and feature 32 GB of storage and an HSPA+ data connection. The Nexus 10 will offer a (you guessed it) 10-inch screen, with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels, which Google says is the highest resolution of any tablet available.

In the announcement, which took place on Google’s corporate blog Monday because a scheduled event was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, the company also unveiled its new smartphone, the Nexus 4. The device will be sold in the Google Play store, unlocked and without a contract, for $299 (for an 8 GB version) and $349 (16 GB). T-Mobile will also sell the 16 GB version for $199 with a two-year contract.

Microsoft announces Windows Phone 8

In other smartphone news, Microsoft on Monday launched its next mobile OS, Windows Phone 8.

At a launch event in San Francisco, the company demonstrated the OS, which has a similar look and feel to Windows 8, Microsoft’s new platform for desktops and tablets, ComputerWorld reports.

Microsoft’s flagship smartphone will be the Nokia 920, which will be available from AT&T in November.