As I am off for the Christmas and New Year holiday, I decided to ask Scott Salzwedel, who did a fine stand in for me some weeks ago, to write another post. He has returned to a topic he clearly finds fascinating. -Colin
As if Motorola’s launch of the Droid isn’t enough, now there’s word of Google launching its own Android phone, the “Nexus One.” Alas, the Google phone is here. But is it really a phone? More on that later.
Getting to this point seems rather circuitous for Google. After all, for the past two years the Android platform was based on a partner-oriented model where the likes of a Motorola or HTC built the device and carriers provided the service. Now, just like Apple (and Palm), Google wants to control the hardware, software, and even distribution…
When it comes to distribution, it’s easy to see why Google might want to do this. Android is just too darn popular. An industry analyst from CCS Insight believes the release of up to 50 new Android models from various manufacturers is possible - in 2010 alone! So Google sees a fragmentation of the Android name. What Google doesn’t want is the splintering of Android-based devices into cheapo handsets where one bad apple could spoil the whole bunch. (Sorry, I just I had to use Apple).
Right now, Android is blistering hot. It’s the potential Apple killer. Google knows this and they want to make sure the Android name doesn’t dilute itself. So to protect the brand, Google is stepping in with its own design (body by HTC), hardware, and software. But what intrigues me most is the fact that Google is not calling this a “phone.” Here’s what Mario Queiroz, Google’s VP of product management said in a post on the Android blog, “We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe.” Do you see word “phone” or “handset” anywhere?
Okay, so let’s assume Google wants to reign in the proliferation of Android handhelds a bit. But it goes even further. What if the new Nexus One is Google’s attempt at creating a new niche market? The problem with Apple’s iPhone is that while it works within the Apple nomenclature, the name defines it as a phone. With Google’s “mobile lab” idea the sky’s the limit. The mobile lab would leave Apple in the dust competing with the other “old school phones” while Google develops this ultra cool device that does so many wild and crazy things. And we know Google has the engineering smarts to pull it off. Right now, it is believed that the Nexus One will be an unlocked device. But what if it required no carrier at all? … Adios AT&T. … See ya’ later Sprint. Who wouldn’t want that?
Yes, we could see a new market evolve away from the smart phone. Researchers and human behavior specialists have speculated all along that some functions, when combined on a single device, are just too much for us to handle. But Google is pretty good about defying logic. Remember back in the early days of the Google search engine? Experts claimed there’s no way Google could make money. And what was this new category anyway? It seems to me Google is very calculated in what they do, and something monumental just might be in the offering in 2010 - something that is very different than what the Nexus One is rumored to be today.