Ah, so Nexus One is on the horizon... the true "Google Phone", and there's a lot of people checking their Verizon receipts (and the return policy) to see if they've bought their Droid in the last 30 days or not.
Rumors abound about Google shipping this as an unlocked and unsubsidised GSM handset, and people seem to be wondering just what this might mean...
A few thoughts:
- So far, no Android device has been on par physically with the iPhone. Whether it was industrial design, processor speed or otherwise, the iPhone still feels like it's in a league of it's own. This handset gives Google the chance to remove hardware as a reason to buy an iPhone instead.
- Unlocked? Hmm... If there's no carrier burden, this can truly become a first class data device... These are devices that really are all about TCP/IP, and just happen to use whatever network is around to get a connection, whether it's cellular, WiFi, or something else... Suddenly, carrier networks, roaming agreements, and fancy technologies like UMA become a lot less interesting... it can really just be all about data, and whoever is able to provide you the right quality of data service, at the right time, at the right price. Changing the game like this isn't dissimilar from Google's participation in the last US spectrum auction.
- What does this say to all the OEM's like Motorola who are making large strategic shifts to embrace Android? Is Google competing with their partners? No. The Android ecosystem needs a true iPhone-class flagship device, and by providing one, Google makes things better for all the participants in the ecosystem. While HTC seems to be the OEM building this particular device, I wouldn't be surprised if Google quite freely shares most or all of the design for this device with other OEM's. Building a minimum-spec phone that's competitive with iPhone, and helping the other ecosystem OEM's get to the same point helps developers and customers: less fragmentation, better user experience. While Motorola and others might suffer some near-term drop in device sales, in the long run this is going to be beneficial for the ecosystem.
- Where's the money? Is this thing going to ship above the $500 mark like all other unlocked smartphones? Building a new flagship phone that you want traction around, and then pricing it way outside even where early-adopters typically tread doesn't sound like a great way to spread the word. So, either there will be a carrier channel here that'll subsidise it (T-Mobile seems like a good option, given the device's reported 3G frequencies), or Google's going to eat some of the cost. Google could well decide that getting a solid competitor to iPhone well entrenched is worth some subsidy cost,of course... just write a cheque out of the promotional budget... But I think it's more interesting to try and understand just what the combined search and app market revenue looks like per device. If Google can sell a device at a price competitive with subsidised phones, and make up the difference with ads and apps, that's one hell of an endorsement of the platform, and the mobile ecosystem as a whole... and it's signals a huge change in how devices will be sold and subsidised in the next few years.
All in all, it promises to be an interesting Q1 for Android, and the smartphone ecosystem as a whole.