Could the Asus MeMo Become a $199 Google-Branded ‘Nexus’ Tablet?

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Jared Newman/TIME

As if we weren’t already excited enough about the Asus MeMo 370T, a new rumor suggests that the $250, 7-inch, quad-core tablet could get a $50 price drop and launch with Google’s “Nexus” branding.

Citing “two different industry sources,” Android and Me reports that Google was impressed by a prototype of the MeMo that Asus showed off at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. At the time, Asus had promised to launch the tablet for $250 in the second quarter of this year, but Google then reportedly approached the electronics maker to see about reducing the bill of materials to reach a $200 price point and launching a Google-branded tablet running Android 4.0, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich.

(MORE: Asus MeMo 370T: The 7-Inch, Quad-Core, $250 Dream Tablet)

(A caveat before we go any further: Android and Me tends to be hit-or-miss with its rumors. For recent examples, Samsung did not announce a Galaxy Tab with a 2 GHz processor at Mobile World Congress, Google has not announced a virtual assistant named Majel and Sprint never launched the Motorola Atrix phone or the Xoom tablet with WiMax. The site did, however, get the early scoop on Samsung’s Nexus S phone back in 2010.)

What we know for sure is that Google wants to have better success in the tablet market this year, and that Chairman Eric Schmidt has said the company wants to “market a tablet of the highest quality.” Benson Lin, Asus’ corporate vice president, recently told TechRadar that the company is “very close to Google.” It’s not implausible that Google and Asus would work together on a low-cost, high-quality Android tablet, with Google putting serious marketing muscle behind it.

Nor is it entirely necessary for the Asus MeMo to become a Google-branded Nexus tablet, however. The Asus MeMo prototype I tried at CES is very similar to stock Android already, and it had none of the general sluggishness that other hardware makers’ Android interfaces sometimes introduce. As I’ve written before, Android tablets typically aren’t as bogged down by bloatware as Android phones.

Talk of a lower price is certainly interesting, but only if the quality of the tablet isn’t compromised. Android and Me floats the idea of Google’s tablet having less internal storage and relying on the rumored Google Drive to store content online — a trade-off that may not go over well with all users. Still, Asus’ next tiny tablet is worth keeping an eye on — Nexus or not.

(MORE: 14 Notable Phones and Tablets From Mobile World Congress 2012)

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