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You and what Android? The Google iPhone killer that isn't

The Mountain View hippies just ain't hard enough

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But apparently it will become the future. Google, Rubin tells Om Malik, is going straight to the Google customers, and proposing a strategy that "could fundamentally change the way people buy cellphones." The Nexus One page is, apparently, a Google-hosted web store a "new consumer channel to provide an efficient way to connect Google's online users with selected Android devices."

But at the moment the page new consumer channel has one device and one carrier prepared to offer the phone on contract (for $179, or $529 without), and two more (Verizon in the US and Vodafone in Europe) to be added in "spring 2010".

The stuff about going straight to the customer and revolutionising the cellphone sales business is perhaps not as straightforward as Rubin would have us believe. It has been possible to buy cellphones on the intertubes for some time, without the help of Google, and it has also been possible to buy cellphones without contract at humungous expense without the help of Google. It might simplify matters if you could go to the one site, pick the a piece of hardware and sign up with the a carrier from a list of participants (a bit like carphonewarehouse.co.uk, but it's not obviously revolutionary.

If Google did succeed in establishing a marketplace where multiple networks would compete on hardware, price and Ts & Cs, then yes, it might well revolutionise how cellphones are sold in the USA, but at least three networks don't believe that Google is going to be able to do this, otherwise they wouldn't be setting themselves up to be sheared in a price war with Google as referee.

Where the page store is different, and very helpful to Google if it succeeds, is in its positioning of Google as the sole merchant for the Nexus One. As is the case with practically everything Google these days, in order to buy it you need to have a Google account, and you need to sign up to Google checkout, with Google retaining a bunch of personal information which "is stored in association with your Google account."

This isn't massively different from the kind of data Amazon and other stores keep, but you can see how useful it would be to a company with Google's footprint and ambitions to convert the rather doubtful personal data it has for Gmail sign-ups to the genuine information that you get if you're running a successful web store. Amazon only tugs at your sleeve if you're visiting Amazon, but Google could do it practically all of the time if it wanted. And as it aims to be able to decide what you're looking for before you know you're looking for it, it quite possibly does want.

But Google being able to do this depends on it building that successful web store, and winning a significant slice of the mobile phone market for Android. So shall we just itemise what it has achieved so far? It has (possibly not even deliberately) won a truly impressive quantity of hype for what a number of people who should know better expected to be a game-changing product. It has rolled out a product that seems a credible competitor, but that is not particularly revolutionary in terms of performance, price or carrier relationship.

And it has largely got away with that. The pundits will not be so kind next time round, if there is a next time round. Nor will the company's Android partners.

It has also rolled out something it claims could fundamentally change the way people buy cellphones, but which is actually much more a case of Google trying to hug even more of your data even closer to its chest. And as Rubin says, he hopes he can sell at least 150,000 handsets. Not the sort of lowball number that going to knock out the iPhone, far less change the mobile market, and not the sort of number you'd expect from a company that was serious. About anything except collecting your data. ®

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