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SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Google on Wednesday unveiled a slimmer, more powerful tablet computer on its Nexus brand and a thumb-sized device that lets popular mobile gadgets feed online content wirelessly to television sets.

The ramped-up second-generation Nexus 7 by Taiwan-based Asus made its debut along with a Chromecast dongle that plugs into television sets to let people easily route online content to big screens.

Mario Queiroz, head of Google T.V., said Chromecast “won’t clutter your entertainment cabinet. It simply disappears behind your T.V. once it is plugged in.”

The new connector device went on sale for $35 online at Google play and will also be sold through Amazon and Best Buy in the United States.

“Cast” icons built into applications for online video services YouTube and Netflix let people use smartphones, tablets or laptop computers to easily direct online videos to television screens, a demonstration showed.

‘If you know how to use YouTube on your phone, you know how to use YouTube on your T.V.,” Queiroz said while describing the vision behind Chromecast.

“Any device in your home can become a remote control for the television.”

Google also made available a software kit for developers to synch mobile apps with Chromecast. Online radio streaming service Pandora is among those with Cast application features “in the works,” according to Google.

Google is also working to let people “cast” online content from Chrome web browsers to televisions.

Content fed to televisions is delivered directly through home Internet connections, with smartphones, tablets or laptops serving essentially as remote controls, according to Queiroz.

“We are paving the way for more apps to come,” he continued. “Over time, we expect the technology to be embedded in a range of devices from our partners.”

The Nexus 7 ramps up Google’s challenge to Apple’s iPad with a slimmer tablet to be easily slipped into a pocket or handbag and allow easy access to rich online content or services.

Nexus 7 is about two millimeters thinner and slightly narrower than its predecessor, which was released a year ago.

“It actually makes a huge difference when holding it in one hand; it fits more easily in a purse or jacket,” Android vice president Hugo Barra said after pulling a new Nexus 7 from a rear pocket of his pants.

Nexus 7 has a high-definition screen and speakers that allow for virtual surround sound listening of films, games, or music.

Nexus tablets will be available in three models, all with seven-inch high-resolution screens. Two Nexus 7 models will connect to the internet just using Wi-Fi, while one will be synched to US high-speed telecom carrier networks.

Nexus 7 prices will start at $229 and top out at $349 in the U.S. market.

Wi-Fi only versions will go on sale in the United States on July 30, with Nexus 7 tablets to be released in France, Australia, Britain, South Korean and a few other countries in “coming weeks.”

Nexus 7 will be the first tablet powered by a new 4.3 version of the Android “Jelly Bean” mobile operating system.

“We from the Android team are investing a lot in tablets,” said Sundar Pichai, who heads the Android and Chrome teams at Google.

“By our count, almost one in two tablets sold worldwide is based on Android.”

More than 70 million tablets powered by Google’s Android software have been activated worldwide, according to Pichai.

Prices are falling for most tablets as sales surge, with many analysts expecting tablets to outpace P.C. sales soon. Tablet shipments are expected to grow 67.9 percent to 202 million units this year, according to a Gartner report.

Photo Credit: AFP/Josh Edelson

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