We'd suspected, then heard, that Google's Nexus One phone simply wasn't living up to the hype, and now Google's taking the rareish step of admitting this. It's redirecting N1 sales efforts from its odd online shop experiment to real stores.
In a blog post today titled "Nexus One changes in availability," Google reveals that while it's "very happy" with Android's overall penetration into the smartphone market, and the innovation in the Nexus One device that "has found its way into numerous Android handsets," the overall launch of the N1 wasn't a complete success. It couches the news in carefully crafted text, of course--"as with every innovation, some parts worked better than others"--but Google is being surprisingly frank here: The Nexus One's sales have been far from stellar.
Google is placing the blame for this squarely on the very different way it has been handling sales of the Googlephone via its dedicated smartphone Web store. "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," Google notes. As a result, it's pulling the N1 from the Web store, and will be expanding its availability into more typical retail channels, following the model it's been adopting in Europe. The store will remain, but it'll be a "showcase" platform to demo a number of different Android phones available around the World.
Is this Google grasping at straws to get sales of the N1 on the upswing? The N1's entire existence has been far from glamorous, if you think about it: Google pretty much bungled the launch event, then there were serious issues with customer service and support for new N1 buyers, questions about the legality of the name, and the device itself was extremely rapidly superseded by a handful of other Android phones. Now it stands out as a pretty poor performer in its own class. And once you've looked at it like this, it begins to look like Google's management of the N1 (and the increasingly fragmented Android platform, despite its seeming marketplace success) has been pretty slapdash. Is this a sign that Google's expansive business model, that has the company extending tentacles into a myriad of different new businesses, is beginning to falter? We'll have to watch developments closely, and see if Google can pull itself together and consolidate.