The next Google smartphone will be for enterprise customers and could even feature a physical keyboard. Is it worth waiting for? For big business, yes. Yet, for smaller companies, today's Nexus One, coupled with Google Apps, could be a big win. If you don't require a real keyboard, that is.
First a major caveat: The sinking feeling that Google may only be a month or two away from introducing its "enterprise" handset and that buying now may not be the smartest investment, especially when attached to a two-year service agreement and an early termination fee.
Andy Rubin, Google's "Mr. Mobile," made the remark about the enterprise handset Friday at an event hosted by the Wall Street Journal. If I were thinking about purchasing a bunch of Nexus One's for a large business, Rubin just doused that idea. And decent of him for doing so.
Presumably, an enterprise Google phone will be built to work closely with Microsoft Exchange and related technologies. Enterprises have very specific compatibility issues and are probably already standardized on BlackBerry or Windows Mobile devices.
The real business opportunity for the Nexus One is smaller businesses, the kind most of us work for, where we may be using Exchange but aren't really pushing its capabilities and wouldn't mind getting rid of Exchange altogether.
Or perhaps we're not using Exchange, but wish we had a more capable e-mail, contact management, and calendar capability than a POP3 or IMAP mail-only system can offer.
For these users--including me--the combination of even a current Nexus One and Google Apps could be a big win. While Google Apps Premier Edition ($50-per-user, per year) works beautifully with my iPhone, something makes me think that, over time, Google phones and Android will become a preferred platform, especially for paying business users.
(Here is a visual tour of Google Apps, provided by our colleagues at InfoWorld).
The easy thing to say about the Nexus One and business users is that if you use Google Apps then the Nexus One is the phone for you. Of course, most people don't use Google apps and for them the Nexus One is a more difficult choice.
Google Apps Premier Edition is a fine e-mail and calendaring option for most small businesses. The other Google Apps, which include a word processor and spreadsheet offer basic functionality, but are good collaboration tools. An improved groups feature has recently been added. I still do all my writing in Microsoft Word, unless I need to collaborate with coworkers, in which case Google Docs makes sense.
The safe answer today is for businesses to stay away from the Nexus One and see what Google releases as its enterprise handset. Still, Google Apps and the current Nexus One could be the right choice for a company--or individual user--that needs to make a purchase right away.