Back in March, we wondered whether the Google Nexus One was a turkey or just a victim of its own fast-burning hype. (Answer: Both, sort of.) But maybe we were going about the question the wrong way. Maybe we were worrying about the Nexus One itself – the software, the hardware, the service – when we should have been worried about how the Nexus One was being delivered to customers.
On Friday, Google announced it would begin rolling out the Nexus One to retail outlets nationwide, in an effort to get the sleek Android smart phone directly into the paws of consumers. Eventually, Google will "stop selling handsets via the web store, and will instead use it as an online store window to showcase a variety of Android phones available globally," Google VP Andy Rubin wrote in a blog post.
Rubin expressed no doubt that the Nexus One was a top-notch smart phone. But he said that Google may have overestimated the number of consumers who would purchase a Nexus One without having a chance to take the thing for a test drive.
"As with every innovation, some parts worked better than others," Rubin wrote. "While the global adoption of the Android platform has exceeded our expectations, the Web store has not. It’s remained a niche channel for early adopters, but it’s clear that many customers like a hands-on experience before buying a phone, and they also want a wide range of service plans to chose from."
Unlike Apple, which seems to have a very, very tough time taking criticism, Google is pretty good at copping to a misstep. As we reported earlier this year, there have been numerous concerns about Google customer service – which appeared to be woefully unprepared for the Nexus One launch – and the general experience of buying a phone "blind," through a website. With last week's announcement, those concerns are being answered, gracefully.
The question now, of course, is whether it's too late. Does Google still have the room to revive sales of the Nexus One – or is the phone already dead in the water? Either way, Google has not wasted its time on the Nexus One, writes journalist Chris Thompson:
In the end, the Nexus adventure merely underscored what we already knew about the company: It's filled with smart people who can always be counted on to change the world but who just don't have much of a clue when it comes to human retail interaction. Well, that's why God invented Wal-Mart. Meanwhile, the Nexus advanced the Android brand and spurned new innovation, which is why, despite this odd embarrassment, the iPhone's engineers are still plenty worried about what Android will do to its business. The Nexus One is dead. Long live the Nexus One.
Long live the Nexus One, indeed.