In case you missed it, Google has unveiled its own branded smartphone, called Nexus One (Click here for pictures).
The new “Google phone” has an iPhone-esque design, and some nifty features including, among others, a fast 1-GHz Qualcom Snapdragon chip, a bigger screen than the iPhone, an updated version of the Android OS (2.0.1) and a voice-enabled typing system so you can speak your text messages, IMs and e-mails.
Google announced that Nexus One is available on T-Mobile’s network or unlocked, and also said it will soon be available from Verizon and Vodafone in Europe.
Like with anything new and hyper hyped, the reactions to Nexus One have been mixed. Some of the features have received a big thumbs up, but it is also being called “Google’s first serious misstep.”
But whether Nexus One ends up an iPhone killer or an iPhone wannabe, Google is now a new kind of player in the smartphone game. It’s not just providing the mobile OS; Google had more of a hand in the design and has put the Google name front and center on the Nexus One phone. HTC, which actually made the hardware, has been turned into an afterthought.
For the folks at Microsoft, Google’s Nexus One is another reminder of what Redmond should probably have done awhile ago: brand its own phone. This could have been Microsoft’s moment, but Google beat them to the punch. Is that surprising? Heck no. The eternally tardy Microsoft has taken a dangerously cavalier approach to the mobile market.
Microsoft’s Project Pink, the codename for the development of a Microsoft-branded phone and/or mobile services, has all but evaporated after generating buzz in 2009. Microsoft is not currently commenting on branding its own phone.
It’s possible that Nexus One will motivate Redmond to reignite its branded smartphone strategy, especially with Windows Mobile 7 scheduled to launch this fall. But for now, Microsoft seems content to spread the beleaguered Windows Mobile OS to its network of phone partners that includes Samsung, LG, Nokia and HTC.
Picking one phone manufacturer to help develop a “Microsoft phone” would alienate the others and Microsoft wants to keep the peace.
Google, on the other hand, sees no problem with pissing of partners by competing against other Android phone makers. Nexus One may lose Google some phone friends, but the whiz kids in Mountain View are willing to take that risk. Who do they think they are, Apple?
If Nexus One underwhelms and burns bridges for Google, as The Financial Times predicts, Microsoft can breath a sigh of relief. The Redmondians can say, ‘See, this is what happens when a mobile OS developer bites the hand that feeds it. Unlike those control freaks at Google, we spread the mobile OS love to all our hardware partners.’
But if Nexus One blasts off into iPhone territory, Microsoft will look even more like an old Buick puttering down the slow lane on the mobile highway.
Microsoft could still brand its own phone even if Nexus One is indeed an iPhone killer, but it would have to do something new and creative with its mobile services. Building Zune HD and Xbox services on top of Windows Mobile 7, perhaps?
What do you think? Will Microsoft design and brand a smartphone this year?
Shane O’Neill is a senior writer at CIO.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter at twitter.com/CIOonline.