Google’s press event today, wherein the Internet giant officially entered the mobile hardware market with a “good” Android phone (the Nexus One), was a tad anti-climactic if you were looking for something truly revolutionary.
What’s interesting about this launch is that those milling around this year’s CES, which kicks off on Thursday, will be left talking not about the Nexus One, but rather about Google’s online Web Store.
At today’s press event, Google and friends quickly ran through the Nexus One specs. The bulk of the rumors circulating the Web made good. The Nexus One really is running Android 2.1. It really does have a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, and beyond that it looks an awful lot like the Motorola Droid.
Speculation about Google alienating its hardware partners were put to rest with HTC CEO Peter Chou and Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha in attendance to field questions after the demonstration.
It was only after showing off the phone that the presentation really began. The start of the show, and perhaps the most interesting thing about today, was the online retail outlet, the Web Store, that Google launched in tandem with the Nexus One.
Google will sell the phone exclusively through the Web Store, allowing customers to choose from either an unlocked version for $529 or a subsidized version through T-Mobile USA. The subsidized version will sell for $179 with a two-year contract.
Additionally, Google announced that it will add additional carrier partners and devices in the near future. Verizon Wireless will be on board by spring, allowing customers to purchase a subsidized CDMA device in conjunction with that carrier.
Those who were wondering why Google would launch its own Android phone today, just days before CES kicks off, should take heed that Google is now an online retailer. That’s quite an overnight transformation for a behemoth like Google. One day you’re a software and Web-based advertising company that specializes in search, the next you’re developing and selling cell phones, as well as cell phone plans.
It’s been no secret for a long time that Google wants to be big on mobile. The company’s November acquisition of AdMob was yet another bread crumb on that trail. However, some may have underestimated the extent of Google’s interest in mobility. From hardware development to online retail to offering consumers a choice of carrier plans, Google will have its hands on every aspect of the consumer wireless industry from here on out.
Today was not about the Nexus One. Today was about Google leveraging the anticipation it had banked surrounding a “true Google phone” to alert the public that it will now be selling phones and plans online. Today was about Google’s need to secure control of various pieces of the wireless puzzle in order to ensure the proliferation of Android and all the Google software that runs on that platform.
Perhaps one of the more poignant, if smirk-inducing, facets revealed today was that customers have to sign up for a Google account in order to buy a Nexus One.