I just got a look at the promotional video for the Nexus S. What it reveals about Google’s Android strategy is fascinating, and suggests that the pressure on Apple and the telcos is about to ratchet up another notch.
The Nexus S, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention, is the successor to the Nexus One, the original Googlephone. Similar looks, identical price point ($529 from Google, $199 with T-mobile contract). HDSPA radio capability, which means it can use T-Mobile’s 3.5G network. Android 2.3 “Gingerbread”. Spec sheet here. This would have been the Nexus Two if Google CEO Eric Schmidt hadn’t for some now-forgotten reason promised there’d be no Nexus Two.
HTC is on the sidelines – this is a Samsung handset. And it has the NFC (near-field capablility) that Schmidt recently highlighted as a key feature for next-generation phones. He’s basically said up front that Google aims to replace conventional credit cards and the credit-card companies are OK with this. Hey, if it talks to their payment systems they don’t care. Not having to ship and manage as many physical cards will lower their costs.
The video tells us some very interesting things about how Google is positioning the Nexus S. And, because Google isn’t stupid and doubtless test-marketed and focus-grouped the product pretty carefully, that in turn tells us a lot about what Google thinks the state of the smartphone market is and where the battlegrounds of the next phase of the smartphone wars will be.
First message: Google thinks that this time it’s got an iPhone killer that can capture the youth/hipster/trendoid market. The video is aimed squarely at teenagers and fashion victims just as surely as the Nexus One was positioned as cutting-edge techno-cool for geeks and salarymen.
Second message: This thing is being marketed squarely as an organize-your-world information appliance. I’m not certain I ever saw an actual phone call occur in the video, and if there was one it went by so fast that I missed at. No, the focus was actually on augmented-reality apps – using the phone display as an information overlay on your physical environment.
Third message, and the stinger in the tail: Near the end, the video says “Pure Google”. Yes, this does seems to mean that Google has read consumer disgust with carrier skinning and lockdown and decided to actively market the uncompromised Android experience against the carriers.
On the assumption that Google’s market-intelligence people haven’t been taking stupid pills, this sets up a prediction: Apple and the cell carriers are about to take a hard punch in the face.
If this seems overly optimistic, reflect on the way that Android phones have so far been winning every market Google has chosen to throw them at. All other smartphone OSes have been losing relative market share. Carrier efforts to capture, cripple, and own-brand Android have already, as I’ve noted in my reports on the G-2, stumbled badly.
The most interesting second-order implication of “Pure Google” is that Google now thinks it can say a loud public fuck-you to the telco carriers and get away with it. Big change from July when the Nexus One got pulled from the Google store, a move many observers (but not me) took to mean Google had lost the power struggle with the carriers. I don’t think there’s much doubt who has the whip hand now.
And as for Apple…their strategic problem just got dicier. The N1 wasn’t designed to go head-to-head with the iPhone on “user experience” and wasn’t marketed that way either. The Nexus S, from this video, squarely is. Apple fanboys may be too worshipful to think this is a real danger, but I think Apple’s planners know better. Watch for an increasing marketing emphasis on their tablets and media/entertainment delivery as a leading indicator that they’re conceding defeat in phone handsets.