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Summary:

The Nexus One smartphone was produced through a collaboration with Google and HTC to jump-start the fledgling Android platform. This effort was a success, and there are three reasons Google should repeat the Nexus One process in the tablet space with both Android and Chrome OS.

Google Tablet

Recent rumors have surfaced that indicate Google is working on not one, but two, tablets, one based on Android, and the other on the Chrome OS. The company is working directly with HTC and Motorola if the rumors are to be believed, with the goal to produce a flagship tablet for each platform.

The tablet space is about to heat up, with quite a few companies having already indicated that products based on Google’s Android platform are in progress. In the midst of this Android tablet frenzy, we mustn’t overlook that Google is working on the Chrome OS, and is expected to make sure it works well on tablets. Google didn’t set any sales records with its flagship Android phone, the Nexus One. This phone was produced through a collaboration with Google and HTC to jump-start the fledgling Android platform in the smartphone market. That effort was a success on several levels, and there are three reasons Google should repeat the Nexus One process in the tablet space.

Build a controlled device. Google created an environment with the Nexus One where it could control the entire user experience. It was able to tailor the Android development effort to the handset, which was built with current technology. This control made it feasible (some would say too feasible) to make rapid changes in the OS to fine-tune the user experience. This was only possible because Google (with hardware partner HTC) had complete control over the hardware and the handset firmware. Google apparently took a page from Apple’s product design book.

The same control would reap big benefits in the tablet space, for both the Android and the Chrome OS models. Android is a solid platform for phones, but it will need to be tweaked to take advantage of the tablet form factor. Chrome OS will be a brand-new platform, and will require even more tuning to the hardware. Controlling the entire hardware/software package will be a big advantage for Google to address problems quickly.

Jump-start the Google tablet market. A strong product goes a long way to show both enthusiasts, developers and OEMs how solid the given platform is for such products. It sends a message that Google is firmly behind the new product, and others should jump on board.

Google tweaked Android with useful features on the Nexus One which made the platform evolve at an accelerated pace. This model would work with tablets just as effectively, and it has the added benefit of turning early adopters into part of the effort. Rapid evolution is the result, with public discussion among the adopters a good by-product.

Stem potential negative product feedback. We are already seeing cheap Android tablets hitting reviewer’s hands, that are getting negative reviews. These are tablets constructed using cheap components, and they don’t optimize the Android software. A solid tablet from Google would go a long way to prove these cheap tablets are not a result of the platform.

The Google Nexus One experiment was a success in showing the market what Android phones could do, and how competitive they could be. Having similar flagship tablets would have the same results by creating a controlled environment for development and optimization. This would accelerate adoption of the platform, which is what Google really wants. It’s not a hardware company, after all.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d): Google Takes the Open Battle to Apple on Multiple Fronts

  1. “The Google Nexus One experiment was a success in showing the market what Android phones could do, and how competitive they could be.”

    It also showed the market that:

    -Google can confuse their partners by competing with them
    -Google can’t do direct end-user support worth a darn
    -Google can make mistakes, and didn’t sell a whole lot of Nexus Ones

    I’d be stunned if Google ever tried to sell a hardware device again.

  2. James, is there strong evidence that it was in fact the Nexus One that produced these effects, and not the Motorola Droid, which was released a scant 60 days earlier and sold considerably more units?

  3. Mobile Geek Engineer Thursday, August 19, 2010

    I totally disagree. IMO, the Droid was the big success that Android needed after the G1 while the Nexus One was a total failure and really not needed in the marketplace at all.

  4. James Kendrick Thursday, August 19, 2010

    The Droid was a definite contributing factor, but the Nexus One was a kick-start in the enthusiast “early adopter” segments that pushed the platform heavily. It was also an influence with developers, as Google pushed OS updates often and early.

  5. I agree with David to an extent. Although the Droid unsold the Nexus One, it failed to implement a standard for which all other manufacturers should follow. It has a processor below 1GHz and was nothing revolutionary at all. In fact, many of us found it rather ugly and limiting. Google, on the other hand, set the bar higher for their manufacturers, something that desperately needed to be done. Had Google not entered the fray, you better believe the phones on the market would still be using 600 MHz processors and the iPhone would still be king.

    I don’t think Google failed with the Nexus One as a product, they failed in marketing. I think, hope, pray they learned from their mistakes and get into the tablet business if only to set a standard.

    1. Do you really think that if Google was planning to sell Nexus One in large quantities, they would launch the device the way they realised?

      It was more of a prroof of concept and take a look at the devices that came after it.

      Also, if Google was planning to sell large quantites, why would they allow HTC to compete them with Desire / Incredible using almost identical design / specs? And how well did these deices do?

      If Google’s intention was to become a player, they certainly go with other OEMs and disallow them to release devices similar to the ones ordered.

      As James mentioned, without Nexus one the picture could be different today. It is much easier to target economies of scale using the same platform as opposed to pushing the envelope further.

  6. sorry, but this analysis doesn’t gel with the reality at all. NexusOne didn’t sell, Google realized hard way that people are not going to buy phones without the carrier service in the U.S as it stands now and they pulled the phones out. At best, it was a good experiment which reiterated the notion that carriers are still the rainmakers of phones in the u.s. consumers just don’t buy phones without having the ability to walk into a at&t/verizon/sprint stores and get the phone replaced or whatever.

    also, the other big issue is that Google cannot be an honest software platform leader while it releases its own hardware based on the same software. in that case, Google will always be competing with its licensees and that will not jive well. Android’s success in the U.S has most to do with CDMA/Verizon devices. period. data shows that.

  7. Google should just produce a developers/reference tablet. Anything more would be fighting with other tablet makers. Android should be allowed on cheap tablets just like windows is available on cheap pcs. People will buy what they want and manufacturers will make what they want also. If they create great software then the hardware will come also.

  8. I owned the N1 for 90 days. After 2 replacements, I finally got my money back (unbelievably, HTC bailed me out). I loved the form factor and all the “potential” but it was a disaster. Google was totally unresponsive to the myriad of problems and angry customers. I love Google/Android/Chrome and love my EVO but would not be interested in a Google device unless I was certain that Google had a solid CS strategy.

  9. Why would it be free on contract? Its a device more expensive than a phone to produce that will consume more network resources than a phone. Its not as though they’d do it to undermine the iPad, because they’re not doing it with the iPhone Undercut the iPods price? Perhaps. Free?No way.
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