Nexus One: What Exactly Happened Yesterday In Mountain View?

The 1950s classic Japanese film Rashômon by Akira Kurosawa is an exploration of human perception, truth and how there can be widely differing accounts of the same event. The film’s plot revolves around the rape of a woman and murder of her husband and is told through dramatically differing accounts of four witnesses. The stories […]

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The 1950s classic Japanese film Rashômon by Akira Kurosawa is an exploration of human perception, truth and how there can be widely differing accounts of the same event. The film’s plot revolves around the rape of a woman and murder of her husband and is told through dramatically differing accounts of four witnesses. The stories contradict one another and the audience is left to determine what the truth really is.

In the less than 24 hours since the formal unveiling of the Nexus One by Google, this is exactly what we have — a collection of differing perceptions and accounts of what’s significant (or not) about the launch. To illustrate the contrasts, I’ll cite Mike Arrington’s review of the phone:

I’ve been using the Nexus One with TMobile since mid-December as my primary mobile phone. This is the best Android powered phone to date. It’s also the fastest and most elegant smartphone on the market today, solidly beating the iPhone in most ways.

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Now with a less favorable view here’s Wired’s Fred Vogelstein:

Congratulations, Google. You’ve spent untold millions of dollars to produce another iPhone — two years late. That about sums up the company’s Nexus One phone launch today.

The anticipation and hype surrounding the so-called “Google Phone” has been astonishing and with good reason. Google’s engineers have a global reputation for innovative, creative and generally awesome products. The stories of its founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin castigating engineers for not thinking big enough and refusing to do “me too” anything are legendary.

But the Nexus One is as “me too” a product as they come.

Similarly, many people yesterday focused not on the phone but on the fact that Google is selling it directly to the public.

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Business Insider and Ars Technica think this move marks a dramatic and “disruptive” change in the market. According to Business Insider:

Google’s biggest, most important announcement today isn’t the Nexus One smartphone’s feature set, specifications, or which carrier networks it will work on. It’s Google’s business model that matters.

Specifically, it’s that Google — not your local phone store — is going to be the place you buy the phone from.

By contrast ZDNet says that selling direct is no big deal, Amazon does it, Apple does it and so do others:

Apple sells its own phones. Unlocked phones are also sold by Nokia and Palm. What’s the big deal?

Carrier representatives themselves said they weren’t bothered or threatened by Google’s sales efforts:

“With Nexus One, we’re testing a new pathway to market that leverages Google’s properties to drive product demand and awareness,” said T-Mobile spokesman Peter Dobrow.

“When we said we were going to embark on a path towards an open business model, we meant it,” said Jeffrey Nelson, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless. “This is the wave of the future for a lot of people.”

As Danny suggested in his question during the Q&A session, where’s the dual-mode phone that can be used with any carrier? Where’s the real disruption?

The iPhone was the first device in the US to shift power from carriers to the handset OEM. The direct selling of the Nexus One continues and advances that development because there are multiple carriers involved. The user selects the phone and then the plan and provider. Eventually, carriers will be reduced to commodity providers of bandwidth, some would argue they already are.

There was no revolution and no dramatic new developments that weren’t previously known: except the availability of a CDMA version of the phone for Verizon this spring. The fact that every text field is voice enabled is a great feature of the phone that I wasn’t aware of previously, though Mossberg says it only works “adequately” right now:

The Nexus One is packed with its own tricks. Its version of Android is essentially the same improved edition as the one that appeared on the Motorola Droid back in November. But it has a few new features, including an experimental dictation capability. You just press a microphone icon on the keyboard and start talking, and the words appear. In my tests, this worked only adequately at best, and very poorly at worst, but Google insists it will learn and improve.

The phone is clearly the strongest Android device on the market and has lots of nice features, but is it or the fact that it’s being sold directly to consumers online a dramatic development? Opinions clearly vary.

Google obviously thought the phone and new sales channel were important enough to schedule a tightly controlled invitation only press event to promote them. The only other time that was done was for the inaugural device, the G1 (also an HTC phone).


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About the author

Greg Sterling
Contributor
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.

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