The widely rumored Gphone hit the news few days ago in the widely commented Android dogfood diet for the holidays post on Google Mobile blog:
“We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe. This means they get to test out a new technology and help improve it.”
Many spent few words about this statement and, by reading this post on Zdnet I’ve got too few thoughts about it.
Main points raised on Larry Dignan‘s post on ZDnet were about product price point and, in general, commercialization strategy (subsidy, selling it unlocked, carriers involvement): to be true seems that most of them have been outdated in a day by the upcoming news.
In fact, just few hours later, sites like HTC Source substantially sort out all details about handset commercialization model, actually giving the impression that such discussion was started months ago (at least between the members of the Android historic team BigG, HTC and T-Mobile – remember the G1?).
It seems that the handset will be sold online (not very clear where and how) by the 5th of January (!) being cross-subsidized by BigG and T-mobile (that is apparently the first Operator to embrace the product) at an extremely aggressive 199$ price point.
As T. Ricker on engadget refers:
“If this device is sold unlocked (as rumored), at a reasonable price (as hoped), and with a jaw dropping user experience (as tweeted), well, it could be very disruptive to the status quo. Then again, that’s a lot of ifs.”
I was quite sure that the first commercialization of the handset would have gone through an Operator: despite rumors about direct web support, Google has no retailer network and despite running service desk support for many of its selling products its capability to offer first level support on handset malfunctions it yet to be proved. Someone at phones review is asking if Verizon is going to do the same as T-Mobile, we’ll see.
I’m also quite curious to understand how Google is going to manage the double-subsidization policy: will 199$ price be fixed? will the commercialization model be common for all Operators? basically promoting the same approach adopted by Apple for the iPhone.
Since carriers battled to subsidize iPhones (despite the very little freedom in commercialization) it’s likely to happen the same, when it comes to a lower price point, since BigG looks for less revenues on product sales (with an eye to mobile advertising core market).
To understand how other carriers will react we need to know more about things like tethering, VOIP or Google Voice: for sure the cooperation with operators is one of the key point to evaluate product success.
Google has often been pragmatic and will probably derogate on too disruptive features in case those make the conflict with operators rise threatening the whole project. While has been demonstrated that Google Voice is not under discussion I’m quite sure that tethering can be easily dropped in favor of a better Operator sustainability.
For sure the product has potential: Google is driving innovation by defining a Proof of Concept that Android is capable to deliver the best UX available on market and by creating new ways of communication such as Waveing.
So far the combination seems too appealing for customers to be ostracized from any of the players in the mobile business chain.
A confirmation that the device will be so aggressive in terms of price (199$ IS aggressive!) is the presence of the well known Google partner, the asian, Taiwanese, OEM HTC.
Someone is noticing that no HTC logo is present on mock ups spotted up to now: HTC can use this product to improve its market share and its brand perception, I ‘m sure that HTC logo will appear somewhere on the phone: HTC has surely been asked to keep the BOM low, I’m sure that they spent much effort on the project and seems strange not seeing its brand anyway on the product….but, let’s see, this is just an experiment in a product line, the involvement could be seen at long term, hard to say.
Apparently product will run Android 2.1 Flan, to be released, according to electronista ultra shortly, on Dec. the 11th.
All those big expectations rely on the overall product quality further than price. The user experience delivered by the handset must be absolutely astonishing and shool look at opening to embracing other players of today’s web experience in the project… did you heard about Phonebook 2.0? Facebook and Twitter?
Google can effectively help them monetize their communities, as it’s doing by indexing their contents. I’m sure they’re already working together to make things work perfectly as a whole.
The threatened player here seems Apple, that will likely soon suffer from a more open, collaborative, probably cheaper and more sustainable competitor (for other chain players): Google is not interested in the same business, BigG only need users, not passionate brand lovers.
At the end of the discussion the true losers here seem handset vendors formerly involved in the OHA: probably Google is getting a bit impatient but, for sure, they looked lazy to the boss making BigG came up with the decision of home brewing the perfect Googlephone (that was meant to be the Moto Droid). It’s indubitably hard to manage for Motorola: actually seems that this handset will compete with the Droid that, anyway, keeps a slight different target in terms of market proposition thanks to its QWERTY Keyboard.
From a features perspective, as said, the phone will be the first being empowered by Android Flan (I don’t believe that the OTA update for Motorola Droid or HTC Hero will be released in advance). Flan has been so far characterized by a hardly arguable feature roadmap, and despite being just 0.1 away from Éclair (rumored for being a somehow Motorola exclusive) will probably introduce some significant changes and UX improvements.
If Google wants to brand this product as strong as it seems I’ld expect also a small set of first fruits such as, a googlewave client (why not?), a Chrome Mobile port (probably not) with flash enabled (hopefully) and truly optimized service integration features such as finally mature location awareness or augmented reality with user generated content such as GoogleGoggles.
What a disruptive start for mobile industry’s 2010! Don’t be too quiet in your Enterprise(s), a Nexus is arriving…