Editor's Note (2010-12-01): I am now aware that the "Nexus S" has been released by Google. Will they revise their approach?
Editor's Note (2010-08-25): "It's hard to know what others don't" - Plato.
The Nexus One is a Smartphone (like the iPhone & Blackberry) designed to be the first, true realization of Google's Mobile OS, Android. You may learn more about the N1 here:
Even I failed to realize the extent of the obscurity (if obscurity can extend) of the Nexus One when writing this article; as I received several private messages asking just what it was. Incredible. - tw
Saddening news, this morning. Google has received their final shipment of Nexus One handsets, and will be discontinuing the project.
This is a black-eye to Google, Android, and the future of open-source telecom.
What went wrong? Why did a solid product, arguably superior to any competitor, launched by a bottomless pocketed behemoth, fail to thrive?
First: We often approach our market from a very singular point of view. We've created a great tool or toy for ourselves and think the whole world should realize the same.
Google made this mistake. They themselves are too large, too fast, too tech-savvy to be truly served by any mobile carrier, so they created a product that would be free of such restrictions, and assumed the world would agree.
Those not living in Mountainview have different needs than those who do. And, this is an important lesson any business can learn to use. If you haven't watched Malcolm Gladwell's TED Talk about Pepsis and Sauces, please take a moment and do so, now.
Personally, I don't mind a carrier - they're all equally bad. So, being given the opportunity to "pick my poison" wasn't really exciting.
Second: Equating local trust to global trust. There is a psychological threshold inside of each of our minds that limits the amount we are willing to pay for an online product, from an online supplier. Thresholds vary from individual to individual, and from supplier to supplier. The more we trust the online shopping experience, the higher our threshold; the more we trust an online supplier, the higher our threshold. Google offered the Nexus One at a fairly normal $529 unlocked cost. However, $529 is quite pricey considering the average online purchase price. N1 was simply too pricey to be trusted as an online-only purchase from Google.
Google mistakenly equated the world's local trust in their search engine and certain other online services for global trust in their corporation as a whole, and their ability to design a quality mobile handset. Yet, we do not know ourselves as the world knows us! Big Tech has tried to diversify for years. Microsoft has tried encyclopedias and search engines and VOIP. Apple has tried classic PDA's and Business Servers. All to lukewarm reviews.
Third: Perhaps most importantly, the N1 wasn't marketed to any particular niche. Better than iPhone? Nah, the Apple loyal bleed and breathe Apple propaganda - you're not going to sway many of them. So, who are the Google loyal out there? Gmail users? Nah. What's out there that gets people really, really excited about Google?
Oh yeah, Google Apps.
Google's greatest mistake was not beating their Apps users over the head with the message, "Your Google Apps experience is incomplete without the Nexus One!". Seamless integration with Apps: They had the card, but didn't play it. The question "Why" prompted me to write this blog today.
So, Google spent millions making a fine product, perfect for a niche market of users that already existed... they even had their email addresses already! And they chose to cast that niche into the masses. Make them feel special, nay, obligated to purchase and use the Nexus One.