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Posted by Ian Fogg on January 5, 2010
Much that's been leaked about the Google announcement later today is familiar and evolutionary. What will matter most is how Google communicates the news and how it's received. This will set the tone for the Android smartphone operating system for 2010 and influence how other firms involved in Android -- Motorola, LG, SonyEricsson as well as the operators -- react and adjust their strategy.
Analyzing rumours is something of a fools game: In the three weeks since the first leak the speculation has shifted from "Google will sell the phone direct, unlocked, unsubsidized and without a carrier partner," which would be a very courageous, even suicidal, strategy in most countries to, "Google will sell a Google-branded phone that will be available both via a carrier and direct," which is a completely conventional strategy, again in most countries especially across Europe (Hint - Even then the subsidized phones are the ones that sell in volume, except in countries where virtually everything is sold without carrier ties like Finland).
The Nexus One phone that was given out to Google employees in December has transformed over the same three weeks from wish-fulfillment dreams of a revolutionary next gen device to a phone that is similar in spec to others available now such as Motorola's Droid (called Milestone outside the US), the iPhone, or HTC's HD2.
Much about the Nexus One appears similar to the first Android phone, the G1. Both are made by HTC. For both, Google was heavily involved in the specification. Both run a new version of Android. Both have the right 3G frequencies for use on T-Mobile US and European 3G networks; in the US that choice will determine the natural network for use which happens to be the same carrier that offered the G1. Both will have Google branding (the question is to what extent). Even the name is interesting: the G1 was commonly called the Google phone by consumers and the media and the G1 even had a Google logo on the back of the case (article from which photo was sourced).
What's new? What's to watch for in today's announcement?
- Precisely how strong will the Google branding be? Other Android phones have Google branding, it's the extent, not its presence that will be significant. How much of a brand message does Google wish to communicate?
- To what extent, if any, will the sales model differ from the traditional carrier business model?
- How will the phone be sold in other countries and who by? The G1 was sold under the name HTC Dream by carriers other than T-Mobile across the world. Are the new business model rumours specific to the peculiarities of the US market alone?
- Will other phones, tablets, devices or the Chrome OS be discussed today?
- Will Google choose to send any words of reassurance to handset makers or carriers about the future direction of Android?
- Again, how will Google communicate what it's doing? How will Google position its new products and what does that mean for future product portfolios of everyone working with Android?