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Google shutters Nexus One webstore

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Google has shuttered the Nexus One web store, ending its days as a direct phone seller.

Last week, the company said it would close the store after unloading one last Nexus One shipment from the manufacturer, and now it's closed. "Sorry, folks," the site says. "The Nexus One is no longer available for purchase directly from Google."

You can still buy the phone through carriers, and registered Android developers can still get it via the web. But the Googlephone is dead.

Google launched its webstore in early January, saying it would "fundamentally change the way phones are sold." The Nexus One — an Android handset built in partnership with manufacturer HTC that Google insisted on calling a "superphone" — was sold solely through the store, and Google said it was merely the first in a family of devices it planned to build.

As late as March, a Google employee told us the company was at work on a Nexus Two.

Google's webstore offered the Nexus One unlocked or in tandem with services from carrier T-Mobile,. At launch, Google said that carriers Verizon and Vodafone would soon join the store as well. Placeholders in the store said the same thing — until May, when those placeholders vanished and Vodafone announced that it would be selling the Nexus One through traditional retail channels.

Google later said it would close its webstore entirely, less than five months after telling the world it would fundamentally change the way phones are sold.

CEO Eric Schmidt later confirmed there would be no Nexus Two. He said that there was no need for a Nexus Two because the Nexus One was "so successful."

"The idea a year and a half ago was to do the Nexus One to try to move the phone platform hardware business forward. It clearly did," Schmidt told The Telegraph. "It was so successful, we didn't have to do a second one. We would view that as positive but people criticised us heavily for that. I called up the board and said: 'Ok, it worked. Congratulations - we're stopping'."

Some have defended Schmidt's words. Really. But Schmidt can't have it both ways. In January, Google told the world the Nexus One and its webstore would revolutionize the way people bought phones, and as Android lead Andy Rubin admits, this "didn't happen." Yet Schmidt insists on calling it a success.

Some make the mistake of thinking the Nexus One was different because it was made by Google. But Google had always worked hand-in-hand with manufacturers on the design of Android phones. The Nexus One was different because it was sold by Google. Some have argued the Nexus One webstore was some sort of Machiavellian scheme to push manufacturers into making better phones and making the them faster. But this is merely a case of the gullible believing the Google mythology.

Google helped build the first HTC Android phone, and it helped build the first Motorola Droid, which even Google open source guru Chris DiBona said was a better phone than the Nexus One. The Nexus One is a fine phone. But it was hardly a superphone. And if it succeed in moving "the phone platform hardware business forward" as Schmidt says, it didn't move the phone sales business forward as the company said it would just months earlier.

Google wanted to be a phone seller. It wanted to bypass traditional sales channels. Let's not forget it was selling unlocked phones. It was working to (further) reduce the power of the carrier.

Somewhere along the way, Google realized the whole undertaking was a bad idea. Selling phones isn't easy. Rubin has said so. Providing support for phones isn't easy either. And though Google will never admit as much, in selling phones the company was also competing with its own customers. When the Nexus One webstore launched, word was that partners such as Motorola and Verizon weren't too happy about it.

If Eric Schmidt is saying that the Nexus One was simply an effort to goad his partners into moving faster, they aren't likely to be happy about that either. However you look it at, the Nexus One was a folly. But you can call it a success if you like. It doesn't really matter. The thing is dead. ®

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