Up to now, Google has avoided competing directly with Apple's iPad. It's done so indirectly, through third-party products like the Motorola Xoom, and the many other generic-brand Android tablets. But when Google itself stepped up to bat, earlier this year, it released the Nexus 7, which is half the size and half the price of the iPad, and designed to compete with the Kindle Fire and Nook.
Perhaps Google's Android execs are feeling more confident this fall. Because right after Apple's new iPad came out, they've just released the aggressively-priced $399 Nexus 10 tablet, made in partnership with Samsung (the way Asus produced the last Nexus-branded tablet). It's got a number of hardware and feature advantages over the iPad ... but still suffers from the same big disadvantage all Android tablets have.
The good news
Just like with PCs versus Macs, Android devices tend to compete favorably spec-wise. And according to their respective tech specs (iPad, Nexus 10), the Nexus 10 is thinner and lighter than the new full-sized iPad, even though it has a larger screen (10.055 inches across diagonally compared to 9.7 inches).
The other big way that the Nexus 10 outperforms the iPad? That larger screen is sharper than even the Retina Display, at 300 versus 264 ppi (pixels per inch). Screens this sharp are becoming expected on modern tablets, while Apple continues to expand them into its laptop lineup as well.
Unlike the Nexus 7, the Nexus 10 features a rear-facing camera. Its front-facing camera (for video chats) is sharper than the iPad's, although megapixel ratings are rarely the best way to tell which camera is better and Apple's built-in cameras are world-class. Likewise, the Nexus 10 product page makes a point of its having 2 GB of RAM, while Apple's only says that the iPad features a "Dual-core A6X" processor.
The bad news
The Nexus 10's biggest weakness? Its dearth of apps compared to the iPad's App Store selection. There are hundreds of thousands of apps in the Google Play store, but its game selection lags up to a year behind Apple's and there are far fewer tablet-specific apps. Even some major apps, like Amazon.com and Flickr, didn't work on the Nexus 7's Jelly Bean version of Android, although it's still possible to visit their sites in the browser.
Google's Nexus 10 product page goes on at length about how you can watch movies and TV shows through Google Play, plus read magazines and join Google+ Hangouts. On the subject of apps, though, it's conspicuously silent. Especially compared to Apple's iPad site, which has a whole section devoted to the App Store.
It does note that the Nexus 10 can run Google apps, like Chrome and Google Earth. And especially with the removal of the Google Maps app from Apple devices, Google apps on Android tend to be far ahead of where they are on iOS. They also tend to have more ads, though -- a "feature" being increasingly pushed on customers through tablets like Amazon's Kindle Fire, but absent from Apple's premium products.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.