Google, Android, Nexus One: Phone Business Change? None!

A few weeks ago I had some harsh words for David Pogue. Dave, The New York Times’ lead technology columnist—among other things—had expressed an opinion about copy protection that I felt was so out of touch with reality he needed to be called on it.

Pogue didn’t like my opinion. He told me so. Well, David . . . this time I’m with you: today, Pogue comments on Google and their new Nexus One cell phone. And I’m happy to report that he’s back in the fold as “the voice of reason”.

Over the last few months, and especially the last couple of weeks, the hype for Nexus One has been in full overdrive. Without every saying so officially, Google had let us know that they were about to release a new, super-feature-rich phone that you can buy without a contract. And they’ve done exactly that. The Nexus One is very, very cool, leap-frogging even my beloved Droid in a few areas (while falling short in a few others).

And that’s it. Business Change from the Nexus One? Very close to zero.

My disappointment with what Google has done stems not from my feelings about the device itself; I’ll repeat that the Nexus One is a great SmartPhone. But let’s be clear: while it’s theoretically true that you could just buy the phone and then 1) get service from the carrier of your choice and 2) get that service at a lower cost , the reality is that differences in the way cell carriers move calls and data around means that the only place you can get service for the Nexus One is T-Mobile. Yes, you could use AT&T instead, but then your data would be too slow.

Oh, and by the way: if you buy your Nexus One from T-Mobile, on contract, you’ll pay about the same thing that AT&T gets for an iPhone and Verizon gets for a Droid. And if you buy a Nexus One without a contract it costs . . . you guessed it . . . pretty much what AT&T and Verizon’s flagship phones cost without a contract.

Overall, this makes the Nexus One announcement a non-event in my book. So why write about it?

Because this is the very first time that Google has hyped/announced/released something that qualified as nothing more than a me-too. Love them or hate them, Google pushes the envelope on everything they do, and the Nexus One is not business change, phone change, power-to-the-people, or anything else, other than Google wanting very much to usurp Microsoft and Apple in the phone operating system wars.

I concede, Google; Android is spectacular. The Nexus One is a great Android phone; I almost want to replace my Droid. But . . . really, when you tell the world you’re going to change business, you need to actually bring some business change to the table. The Nexus One is no such thing.