Google unveiled the Nexus One a little over a week ago after weeks of rumors and hype. Not only has the Android-based handset failed to revolutionize the smartphone industry as some had speculated, but the spiraling debacle suggests Google may have underestimated what it takes to compete in the smartphone arena.
I have not seen or heard any projections for how many Nexus One handsets Google planned on selling, but I imagine that it expected higher than the reported 20,000. Apple set the bar pretty high, selling 1.6 million iPhone's in the week following its launch, but the Droid sold more than 12 times the Nexus One, and even the MyTouch 3G pushed out 60,000 in the first week.
Granted, while Verizon invested millions marketing the Droid and generating buzz prior to its launch, Google actually did the exact opposite--trying to work in stealth and keep the existence of the Nexus One and specific details of the device secret. Still, I think Google would be lying if it didn't admit that 20,000 is a disappointing start.
As soon as users began to receive their Nexus One handsets, complaints of flaky or non-existent 3G connectivity began to mount. There is room for finger-pointing, and it can be debated whether those issues are a function of the handset--which is made by HTC, or the network--which is managed by T-Mobile.
The bottom line, though, is that it is Google's phone. Google chose to develop a branded Android smartphone, and regardless of whether issues lie with the hardware or the network, the buck ultimately stops at Google.
Marketing aside, part of the reason that the Droid is more successful is the choice of provider. Motorola partnered with Verizon--the largest wireless provider in the United States, while Google chose to hitch its wagon to T-Mobile.
If you want to revolutionize smartphones--or even rebrand them as "superphones"--the obvious choice is to go with the last place wireless provider. Verizon has the largest 3G network. AT&T claims the fastest 3G network. Sprint markets its 3G network as the most dependable. What is T-Mobile's network claim to fame? Smallest?
Google's decision to launch its revolution by partnering with T-Mobile shows shockingly poor judgment. Perhaps T-Mobile is easier to push around and more willing to give Google the types of concessions it was seeking?