According to the WSJ and its sources, Google has picked HTC as the maker of the new Nexus 9 tablet. The device was rumored to be unveiled in the next few weeks and features an Nvidia Tegra K1 chip with a 64-bit Denver CPU.
HTC was not only the first OEM to partner with Google for the creation of an Android phone (HTC G1), but it was also the maker of the first Nexus phone (Nexus One), which launched in January 2010 with Android 2.1.
Since then, Google has chosen Samsung, Asus and LG to create its Nexus phones and tablets, and HTC hasn't had another chance to prove itself, even though it could have definitely used such an opportunity to improve its declining revenues and profits.
The Nexus One was considered one of the most beautiful smartphones at the time of launch, and HTC's latest "One" series has also been highly regarded. HTC's design prowess, combined with the media attention Nexus devices usually get, could help the company recover, in the same way making Nexus devices improved the image and revenues of Asus and LG.
Before the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5, many people tended to stay away from LG products because they were thought to be of poor quality, especially after the LG Optimus 2X, which shipped with many issues.
The partnership with Google benefited LG a great deal. First, Google showed LG how to build a much better Android device, and second, it gave LG much more exposure in the American press as the maker of the one and only (for the year) Nexus phone.
If HTC follows the same path as LG, the attention it could get for making the Nexus 9 tablet could significantly boost its sales. The only potential issue with this strategy is that tablets aren't as hot as they used to be, and people tend to prefer larger smartphones or "phablets" these days. The 9" size for this tablet could also be a problem, as larger Android tablets haven't found their "purpose" so far.
The smaller 7" Asus-made Nexus tablets from the past two years have at least been great book readers. Google and HTC will need to identify the purpose of a 9" tablet and properly pitch it to the market, if they want it to do well.
Google will also need to show that Android apps have come a long way on tablets since the Nexus 10 days when there were too few tablet-optimized apps available. The Nexus 9 will mark the launch of the Android L version, so that should be a good opportunity for Google to also show how it has improved the tablet interface since then.