The Nexus 7's Single Biggest AdvantageS

Google's Nexus 7 tablet has a killer spec sheet, an enviable operating system, and cutthroat price. But all of those combined can't do for the tiny champ what Google's actions today will. And that might just be enough to help it beat back the rumored iPad Mini.

Google takes great pride in maintaining the sanctity of its homepage. It's a pristine white canvas, a zen garden of searching calm. Because of that cache—and the extraordinary number of visitors it draws—its value to advertisers is literally priceless. As in, Google has never sold it to an advertiser.

Today, Google's homepage has a Nexus 7 burbling up from the bottom. And that's going to sell a lot of Nexus 7s.

Before you say that no one goes to google.com anymore, remember that there are hundreds of millions of people in this world who don't know what Chrome is, who don't know how to search from the address bar. Google sites saw 190 million unique visitors in July of this year alone according to comScore. That includes all of Google's properties, yes. But a giant chunk of that is homepage visits. And the people who search through google.com are also, coincidentally, the same people who probably hadn't heard of a Nexus 7 before.

It's impossible to quantify how much an ad placement like that is actually worth; Google doesn't offer it, and even if it did its advertising program is based on a bidding system. But it's no understatement to say that the company is giving its tentpole hardware product the equivalent of (tens of?) millions in advertising. Free advertising. And it can do it from now until October.

Why is that important? Because in a month or two, Apple will reportedly announce its own 7-inch tablet, and will receive plenty of free marketing of its own in the form of live blogs and evening news reports. And the only advantage Google knows it has for sure over Apple is it has a head start. Every person who buys a Nexus 7 now is a person who won't be buying an Apple product in October. It's time to get the word out. And nobody but nobody has reach like Google.

It's not the first time Google's used its homepage to promote its own services. It did so with Chrome (which is now the number one browser in the world) and the Nexus One (Google's first hardware foray), and Google+ has made an appearance as well. But this could be the first time that Google's leveraged its own ad prowess with such urgency.

Will it work? That depends on what the goal is. If it's to stop the iPad Mini in its rumored tracks, well, no, probably not. Amazon's been plugging the Kindle on its pages since day one, and it's still barely made a dent. But if Google's trading some of its homepage sanctity for a foothold, throwing up sandbags before the iPad Mini storm arrives? Absolutely. Free marketing is the biggest advantage it's got. Might as well use it.