January 6, 2010 | by Ed Clark
After the unveiling of the first and only Google-sold cell phone yesterday, many of us still have more questions than answers. In reading comments on various forums, I keep seeing the same topic over and over: What does Google gain by offering its own phone?
Andy Rubin claims that the Nexus One is an opportunity to broaden the availability of handsets running Android. News flash, Mr. Rubin: plenty of Android handsets are available, and plenty more are in the works for 2010. Not to mention that HTC–the maker of the Nexus One–already has many of their own handsets running Android anyway. Why does the Nexus One need to be sold by Google?
Think about it. There are many potential drawbacks to creating an operating system for the Open Handset Alliance, working with various vendors to get the latest versions of your operating system on their hardware and their networks (Motorola, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc), and then turning around and selling the latest and greatest version of hardware and software yourself. (Yes, Engadget thinks the Droid is better than the Nexus, and yes, Android 2.1 is coming for others, but that’s missing the point.)
I can only speculate that this is some sort of middle step for Google. One popular rumor is that Google wants to become its own carrier. Maybe they do plan to offer a service that would eliminate cell phone carriers somehow. I can’t imagine that T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, and Vodaphone would like that very much.
Another idea is that Google wants to emulate Apple: become a software and hardware vendor and make huge profits with flashy, high-end gear. This would require Google to buy a company like HTC (which may not even be possible), and again, would surely annoy the other hardware makers in the “Alliance.”
You don’t have to look very far to see that Google is OK with blowing up markets for other companies. Just check out Google Navigation and its impact for GPS navigation system vendors for a recent example. But Google should step lightly here. Partners don’t like to be stabbed in the back, and they can certainly impact the profitability and viability of Android in the long run. Of course, it may just be that I don’t understand what the plan is to begin with.