In late December of last year, the Internet was abuzz with information about a new phone from Google- a superphone that had any and every feature that man had ever dreamed of. The iPhone competitor from Mountain View. Soon after, the Nexus One debuted in the hands of Google’s employees. Sneaky photos and videos of the uberphone debuted all over the Internet. Everyone was curious to know if this was the iPhone killer?. Once the hype was on overdrive, Google unveiled it officially in a very simple affair at their Mountain View HQ.
Thanks to a friend whose wife worked at Google, I had a chance to play with the device in early January after the official launch. I liked the touch and feel of it not to mention how fast it was. But that was that. I didnt see it as an iPhone killer- atleast not in the Nexus One version. The Android software, while extremely flexible and developer friendly was not yet the business minded developer’s platform of choice. Until that happened, the real cool apps would not make an appearance on the platform and hence prevent a very large uptick in sales of the device. That said, Google was attempting to change the carrier lockin system tied to handsets by offering it on its own website based on the carrier of choice. This would be a revolutionary way of selling handsets and one that had the potential to change the landscape, if it worked. If it worked.
Over the last four months, a lot has happened on the Android front. Today (May 10, 2010) NPD revealed that the Android platform was the #2 largest selling mobile platform in the US ahead of the iPhone. This has been made possible thanks to the proliferation of Android devices on all four carriers not to mention great promotions and some really cool hardware. Added to all this is the fact that the iPhone is exclusive to ATT which makes it hard to match a platform selling across 30+ devices on 4 different carriers.
But things havent really been all that great for the Nexus One. What was once viewed as a superphone and the best of the best from the Android stables is now almost an also ran. A few weeks ago, Verizon which was supposed to get the Nexus One in Spring said that it was skipping the device in favor of HTC Incredible. Two days ago, Sprint joined Verizon in politely declining the Nexus One in favor of the HTC EVO. It is hard to blame the carriers. The cost of marketing and promoting the tent-pole devices is so high that one cannot afford to have multiple such devices. One or maybe two superphones is all a marketing team can focus on. Not to mention trying to cannibalize one phone over the other in one’s own portfolio.
To be fair to Google, they went for broke and failed. But they did make an attempt to change the status quo in an industry that hasnt changed by much in a very long time. The only downside to all of this is that we wont see Google put up a big effort on the mobile handset front for a while, if not ever. They will continue to spend their resources and effort on the Android which is bearing fruit as we speak. So Android as a platform will be Google’s contribution to the cellular industry. The Nexus One will be a footnote. An uber one at that.
Disclaimer: After I finished writing up the post, I noticed in my Google Reader that Fast Company has an article very similar to this one titled “The Rise and Fall of the Nexus One”. It is a very nice article worth reading here. Soon after, I saw the Motley Fool article along the same lines here.