On Friday, as Steve Jobs was explaining just why the iPhone 4's antenna woes were not exclusive to his smartphone, Google quietly released a very short item of news on its blog. Two months after shutting up its online shop, its first foray into hardware, the Nexus One, was no more in the United States.
"This week we received our last shipment of Nexus One phones. Once we sell these devices, the Nexus One will no longer be available online from Google. Customer support will still be available for current Nexus One customers. And Nexus One will continue to be sold by partners including Vodafone in Europe, KT in Korea, and possibly others based on local market conditions."
Google also added that the Nexus One would be available for app developers to buy, via the Android Market Publisher site. So does this mean the end of Google's short-lived flirtation with hardware? One should hope not. While it may have botched the launch, and customer care, Google should just see the past year as a lesson in how not to do things. This will be important when they eventually launch their Google tablet—if, that is, they do what Eric Schmidt has been threatening for the past three months.
Google is already way behind Apple on the game—no wonder Larry and Sergey have fallen below Jobs on Media Guardian's Power 100 front. But it need not be thus. In most of its arenas, Google is the proactive one, forcing its rivals to be reactive. Online search, maps, advertising. In short, Google is the brand that no Internet user can live without.
Apple, however, with its beautiful, user-friendly products, is setting the agenda for the post-smartphone mobile media age. Three years ago, it was the iPhone. Now it's the iPad. If it takes Google two and a half years to come out with its own-name Android version of Jobs' "magical device," then it's all over. By that time, Apple will have brought out the iBrain.
This year has seen an enormous amount of "Which Tech Firm is the Gundam of our Lives"-style speculation, with commentators imagining an enormous duke-fest between Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook. Although Apple hardware is owned by less people than are, say Facebook users, or Google, or even Microsoft, it's been setting the agenda for almost a decade now, with the iPod and iTunes being its first steps of dictating to customers how they want to lead their digital lives.
But it's easy to argue that Google is by far the larger entity. Everyone uses Google. You might not have a Mac, but you use Google as your primary search engine. Google Maps is probably the go-to location service. Maybe Facebook isn't in your life, but Google is. And other firms are rushing out their own versions of Google products—Apple with its iAds service, Microsoft's Bing and Facebook's search capacities.
On the tablet front, however, the only firm currently in the market is Apple. And the silence in the Android camp is becoming mighty noticeable, despite the whining, pleading, and cajoling emanating from the tech blogs. There's been rumor and suggestion for a couple months now—and Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam's confirmation that it will come—and on the Verizon network, gives Google a big advantage over Apple. The reason? Verizon doesn't suck as a network, unlike AT&T—which, according to Jobs, is having cellphone tower approval issues.
So come on, Google, this is your time. We all know that the tech world is shrouded in secrecy, but you've got to get your product out, asap. Every day spent umming and aahing over when you launch, or what color the ad campaign should be in, is a day wasted. Get your product out. Android is a superior OS, it's increasing its market share month by month—and Apple, frankly, needs the competition. We all do.