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Nexus One bows to carrier might

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Under pressure

At launch, Google said that both Verizon and Vodafone would offer service plans in tandem with the Nexus One from its webstore. And it gave each a placeholder in the store indicating their phones would arrive this spring. But the Vodafone name has vanished from the store, and Verizon users are now pointed to the carrier's website, where they can pre-order the upcoming Droid Incredible, another HTC-manufactured Android phone.

Google is still selling an unlocked phone to customers in the UK, Singapore, and Hong Kong as well as the US - as it has done since the Nexus One debuted. But the company has not expanded the store to other countries as it indicated it would. "Consumers in Europe will be able to buy Nexus one from mobile operators, beginning with Vodafone. We don’t have anything further to announce about Google’s web store at this time," the company told us on Monday.

You might argue that Google has simply realized it's rubbish at selling phones. For all Rubin's talk of efficiencies, Google simply isn't equipped to sell phones. Even if large numbers of people are inclined to buy a phone straight from an online search engine without the traditional marketing and hand-holding traditionally provided by the carriers - and we're not sure they are - Mountain View is woefully unprepared to deal with support after the phone is sold.

But again, in January, Google said this was a long term endeavor. We would argue the company has backpedalled under pressure from its partners, whom the company very much relies on to sell Android phones through existing channels.

When we asked Google whether it had indeed nixed plans to offer the Nexus One on Verizon, it didn't respond. But the company tells CNET that it "won't be selling a Nexus One with Verizon" - an unusually unequivocal statement from the Mountain View Chocolate Factory. This couldn't be further from what it - and Motorola - were saying on January 5.

"I see [Google's Nexus One store] as another way to get to consumers, another way for them to buy devices," said Motorola co-chief exec Sanjay Jha, who was trotted out during Google's Nexus One press conference alongside Rubin and Queiroz.

Motorola and Verizon had just spent a reported $100 million promoting the new Android-based Droid phone. "I don't see this as a threat [to Motorola]. I just see it as potentially an expansion of the marketplace."

If it was just an expansion of the marketplace, Google would still be prepping a Verizon Nexus One.

It was Andy Rubin who, in the run-up to the introduction of the Nexus One, deflected questions about the phone's existence by saying that Google would never build its own hardware or "compete with its customers" - meaning the likes of Motorala and Verizon.

At launch, Google denied building the Nexus One hardware with such vehemence that you couldn't help but assume that it had. But claims that Google wasn't competing with its customers stretched the farce even further. As time has told. ®

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