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If you've been holding your breath waiting for Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) to follow up the Nexus One phone, it's time to take in some oxygen. Nexus Two ain't happening, folks -- it's "One and done" this time. Google gave up on the Nexus line of phones after the first try, and the Nexus Two will never happen.
The revolution that never started
The original purpose of commissioning the Nexus One from HTC was to test out a new sales model for the mobile phone industry. Instead of letting Deutsche Telekom division T-Mobile sell the phone in its stores, Google insisted on channeling all sales through a Google-owned website.
T-Mobile was the first in a supposed line of service partners; Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) signed up but then dropped out again when the more powerful EVO 4G and Droid Incredible arrived on their networks. The idea was to have consumers select a phone first and a network second instead of the other way around. Nexus One would be followed by other models, probably by other manufacturers including Samsung and Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) .
But Nexus One sales never really took off, and the Nexus One site will stop selling phones. You can still slide in and pick up the phone that's compatible with either T-Mobile or AT&T (NYSE: T ) . But T-Mobile (and perhaps other retailers) will soon take over the selling duties and leave Google's effort a mere monument to what Android phones can do.
In the eyes of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, that's not so bad. "The idea a year and a half ago was to do the Nexus One to try to move the phone platform hardware business forward," he told The Daily Telegraph. "It clearly did. It was so successful, we didn't have to do a second one." One phone call to the board of directors later, the Nexus series officially ends at One.
I don't know how Eric justifies that statement to himself. At best, I'd call the Nexus One an irrelevant footnote in mobile history. Nice phone, sure, but there were several equally powerful Android phones waiting in the wings almost from the start. Did the Nexus One project light a fire under HTC to bring high-end models like the Droid Incredible and EVO 4G to market faster? Perhaps. That would be a victory of sorts, if those models weren't chronically out of stock. Verizon even lets you cancel your Droid Incredible order in exchange for a Motorola-made Droid X without a restocking fee, which tells you something about the Incredible's incurable manufacturing issues.
The real story
Google-branded phones never did make sense to me, and now we know that Big G just wanted a playground in which to frolic until the whole Android movement got off the ground. Playtime is over, because Android phones are serious business nowadays.
The Nexus One was never a threat to the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone, but the avalanche of non-Googlish models that followed certainly is. Not to kill the iPhone, mind you, but certainly a threat to keep Steve Jobs on his toes lest some Android alternative or other might overtake his beautiful cash cow in utility, popularity, and revenue. Steve will probably always own the "Best Design" award, even if it makes the phone worse in other respects. There's a market for that, and maybe even an app.
Should we give credit to a pebble that may have started the landslide? I think the original Droid by Motorola would get that nod. Sorry, Eric; I'm not buying the "This was a triumph" line. But at least you didn't waste a whole lot of invested effort and money. Let's split the difference and call it a Pyrrhic loss.
How did the Nexus One experiment do in your eyes? I expect a heated debate to break out in the comments box below.