So I was wrong about Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) staying out of the cell-phone retail market. The Nexus One phone, made by Taiwanese hardware designer HTC but branded as Google's, and Google's alone, is available now to any Tom, Dick, Harry, or Sally on the street.
The Nexus One looks like a great product, clearly sexier than the Samsung model I was drooling over last summer (and which sort of made it to T-Mobile recently with new software and a new name). Powered by a high-end Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) SnapDragon chip that makes the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone and Palm (Nasdaq: PALM ) Pre look like slugs crawling through cold molasses, the Nexus One also features a beautiful OLED screen, five-megapixel camera, and all the usual bells and whistles of a modern smartphone. I won't sneeze at the software either -- the 2.1 version of Android supports voice input for pretty much everything and features ultra-slick 3-D graphics.
But that's not the point. Google isn't even trying to market the Nexus One hard, the way Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) went on an all-out attack worth $100 million or more to push the Droid model from Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) . Instead, Google is selling this phone on the sly with prominent Nexus One ads popping up in places like YouTube's front page and atop any Google search for a "phone."
If the Nexus One becomes a huge success, it would be a testament to the power of online marketing. Google doesn't intend to sell its phones in physical stores where customers can finger the goods. Launch partner T-Mobile isn't even selling the Nexus One in its own online store, and I suppose Verizon Wireless won't do that either when a Verizon-compatible model becomes available later this spring.
This ain't no iPhone killer, folks. Don't sell your Apple stock based on this announcement, and hang onto your Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) stubs, too. Google expects to launch several Android models in the just-born online Google phone store, but none of them will devour the mobile market, nor kill any specific competitor. What Google is doing is simplifying the consumer's phone-buying process -- choose a phone, then pick a network -- and simply populating that revolutionary store model with a design of its own. I fully expect to see other brands in Google's phone store shortly, along with every major mobile service provider.
Simple shopping means more Web-browsing smartphones in the hands of consumers. That, in turn, feeds Google's cash machine. That's just how this Rule Breaker rolls.
Do you want a Nexus One? How about some Google stock? Discuss your desires in the comments below.