The Nexus One was to be the first "in what we expect to be a series of products which we will bring to market with our operator and hardware partners and sell through our online store... We expect to add more operators, more devices and more countries in the future..."
Verizon Wireless was one carrier Google expected to add, but Verizon decided to drop it and instead to promote the HTC Droid Incredible .
Sprint Nextel announced it was going to carry the Nexus One, but said last week it had dropped Google's phone from its lineup. "Nexus One will not be coming to Sprint's [network] given the upcoming availability of the award-winning HTC Evo 4G," a spokeswoman confirmed today. The Evo 4G arrives in June 4.
None of the major carriers nor Google would say which retailers or carrier stores are expected to carry the Nexus One in the U.S., although T-Mobile seems the most likely to do so.
Explaining Google's reversal, Gartner Inc. analyst Ken Dulaney noted the problem customers had with not being able to use the device, but also how Google angered the carriers, which have been the traditional retailers and have fostered long-term relationships with millions of customers for decades.
Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said despite all the promotion of the Web-based smartphone store, said Google really wanted "primarily to get smartphones on the street," in whatever way it could.
He said selling direct online resulted in sales of an estimated 200,000 Nexus One phones. "It was about getting an early kickstart to market and Google did that by selling a a couple hundred thousand," Gold said.
He said that decisions by Verizon and Sprint to support the Incredible and the Evo are not so much a failure of the Nexus One, as much as a recognition that the Nexus One was getting older, when the life span of a smartphone is now only between nine and 12 months.
The Incredible and Evo can be seen as "successors" of Nexus One in a market of Android devices that will become increasingly fragmented, with different carriers offering their own flavor of Android, Gold added.
Because the subsidized prices for smartphones are going to continue to be much less than for unlocked phones, carriers will continue to win out and remain the "primary channel" for buying mobile devices, Gold added.
Having seen its reversal with Nexus One, it's fair to ask, will Google ever return to Web sales of Android devices?
"Never say never with Google," Gold said. "They might offer Web-based sales on a tablet device."
Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst, added, "perhaps this kind of [online sales] move with work for Google down the road."
He said that Google, as big and powerful as it is, really doesn't have the swagger of the carriers, which may be the most telling point of all in Google's reversal. "Google is not a heavy hitter in wireless -- yet," Kagan said.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld . Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
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