Just in case you missed it – if you’re in the UK, you may have been preoccupied with the large blanket of snow that has just landed – the first Googlephone has arrived.
Albeit only the US, but, hey, it’s arrived – via a Google-hosted web store which, according to
“to provide an efficient way to connect Google's online users with selected Android devices. We also want to make the overall user experience simple: a simple purchasing process, simple service plans from operators, simple and worry-free delivery and start-up.”
Queiroz could also have said “to weaken further the carrier relationship with the end-user while conversely strengthening Google’s position within the mobile value chain”, because that is precisely what it will do (although to say so might be considered to be somewhat tactless).
The Googlephone – or Nexus One, to give it it’s correct title – has been flagged for some time: the surprise is perhaps that it’s taken quite so long to get here. In early 2007, there were reports that we would have one by the end of that year, and that HTC would be building it. Oh, and that Orange would be the carrier of choice.
Well, the end of 2007 came and went: no Googlephone, but a rather nifty iPhone from Apple which left the competition standing. Mid-2008: still no Googlephone; Apple launches the iPhone 3G, gets bucketloads of downloads and the rest of the world gets App Store envy – including Google. Thus, although the Googlephone was still conspicuous by its absence, we did get Google’s open source OS (on HTC handsets) and a storefront in the shape of the Android Marketplace.
As Queiroz says, there are now 20 Android handsets in the marketplace across 59 operators in 48 countries – although their combined quarterly sales still lag behind those of the iPhone, while average app download levels from the Marketplace are also lower than those from the App Store.
So here comes that final, long-awaited piece of the mobile jigsaw. Queiroz again:
“Nexus One is an exemplar of what's possible on mobile devices through Android — when cool apps meet a fast, bright and connected computer that fits in your pocket. The Nexus One belongs in the emerging class of devices which we call "superphones." It's the first in what we expect to be a series of products which we will bring to market with our operator and hardware partners and sell through our online store.”
The key word in the above is “computer”. Google has made its reputation and billions through its Internet strategies, and has always viewed mobile as a distribution mechanism for extending its reach. It has the infrastructure, it has the technology; thanks to its recent purchase of AdMob, it has a dedicated mobile advertising network. Now, with its own-brand handset (available from its own online store), it can reach out directly to the consumer, offering not just the Internet but the means of accessing it.
Meanwhile, just as Google has been trumpeting the Nexus One, Apple has been making its own moves into Google territory with the purchase of its own mobile advertising company – Quattro Wireless. However, while it is tempting to view these events simply as part of an elaborate Apple/Google struggle for supremacy, the fact that this temptation exists reflects the difficulty that the traditional big beasts of the mobile jungle, the carriers, face to avoid being completed sidelined; their networks mean that they will hardly be irrelevant in any endgame, but the growing perception of mobile as a battleground where the key players are OS providers shows how much the ecosystem has changed in a couple of years.
On that note – Happy New Year!