Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has confirmed that the technology giant will release a flagship Android tablet in the next six months in its quest to challenge Apple's iPad. The move mirrors Google's smartphone strategy, whereby its Nexus range of handsets leads the Android battle against Apple's iPhone.
Confirming that Google is developing a tablet, Mr Schmidt told an Italian newspaper: "In the next six months we plan to market a tablet of the highest quality."
Google has become a major hardware manufacturer by virtue of its $12.5 billion takeover of Motorola's devices division, though the acquisition is currently under consideration by competition authorities. But were the deal to be rubber stamped by regulators, it would instantly give Google significantly more control over Android tablet development.
Until now, Amazon's Kindle Fire, based on Android, has been the strongest challenger to Apple. This is primarily due to its relatively low price, though it has faced criticism over the usability of its software.
In addition to looking forward to the launch of a new Google tablet, Mr Schmidt has paid tribute to one of the industry's most creative thinkers, former Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs, who is credited with kick-starting the tablet market. Indeed, the Google Chairman said that the iconic iPad device is an "amazing" consumer product.
"Steve Jobs was the Michelangelo of our time," he commented. "A friend of mine and a unique character, able to combine creativity and visionary genius with an extraordinary engineering ability."
"Steve realized the revolutionary potential of the tablet and created an amazing product like the iPad," he added.
Despite this complimentary appraisal of Mr Jobs' career, the Google boss revealed that he expects the competition between Android smartphones and the iPhone to be "brutal".
The two firms are, in fact, already embroiled in a bitter disputes over technology used in their smartphone handsets, with a US court recently banning Android phone-maker HTC from importing infringing phones into the country. The dispute is unlikely to end there, though, and it seems set to become even more intense once Google dips its toe into the lucrative tablet market.