What if the Nexus One isn't sold by Google?
Thursday, Dec 17, 2009
Special note: This is a pure thought exercise based on news stories and my own speculation. Conventional wisdom:
  • Google has build an open-source phone OS based on the intention of expanding their advertising reach into the blossoming mobile markets, as opposed to making money selling hardware.

  • Google has said they're not going in to the business of building phones.

  • The Nexus One, built by HTC, is supposedly going to be sold both with and without contracts next month.

Everyone seems to assume that, because Google gave each of its employees one of these phones as a holiday bonus, Google is going into the business of selling hardware. My prediction:
  • The HTC Nexus One is a poster child, driven by Google, of how mobile phone OEMs can create a business selling lower-cost hardware directly to end users without carrier limitations, requirements, contracts and markups.

  • Given that Google's primary interest is getting incremental revenue through mobile usage of Google products, they would like the price point to be as low as possible and the adoption as high as possible.

  • It seems completely reasonable to me that Google negotiated a contract with HTC to co-design and manufacture a huge build of Nexus One phones, then instead of taking the inventory and selling themselves, Google will market the phone and use Google Checkout to connect customers directly with HTC at the Google-negotiated OEM price.

Presto! Google has brought an excellent phone to market at a very attractive price without actually being a hardware vendor themselves. And while the carriers may hate this, it serves as a poster child for how all the other mobile phone OEMs can follow suit and make a bundle by losing the bundling. 2010's going to be an interesting year in the mobile space... Update: Then again, the Nexus One trademark was applied for by Google, so that does weaken my theory a bit.
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