Google's Nexus One Tactic is the Only Way to Keep Up

Technology developers tend to move fast while vendors tend to minimize their investment to maximize profits. That's a modern paradox, and despite what some people think, the only way for Google to compete is to both supply the Android license and compete with partners with its own phone.

All things being equal, makers of consumer electronics would rather just do nothing when it comes to updating their products. They don't like to retool, re-write manuals, and change specifications and Websites -- so long as the money keeps rolling in. That may have worked in the 1970s to the 1990s for home electronics, but it no longer works in 2010 (which is not the start of a new decade, by the way. The new decade starts Jan 1, 2011.)

The pace of the development in Software tools in this decade has been staggering. Whether it's with Java, Ruby (and Ruby on Rails), NetBeans, Eclipse, new languages, you name it, it's clear that better tools are creating new technologies, tools and languages. Groovy is just one example. My wife, who is heavily into Java, professionally, reports that she has to study, learn and work at home, just keep up.

Nexus One

Credit: The Nexus One from

As a result it's no longer satisfactory for Google to just sit back and watch its Android licensees fritter away time and opportunity. Some Android phones, as a result, still ship with pre-2.0 versions. If Google is going to surpass Windows Mobile, it has to promote its smartphone OS in a visible way that spurs its partners to move along. That's why, I believe, that Microsoft's Robbie Bach is wrong when he said that Google will have a hard time attracting new partners when it competes with its own phone.

Of course, the remarks by Mr. Bach could be taken as seriously self-serving. Microsoft is having an increasingly hard time attracting partners to its own Windows Mobile. Windows Mobile 6.5 was met with a tepid response, and Windows 7, which is supposed to solve all Microsoft's Mobile OS problems is very late. It may ship late in 2010 according to the latest report I've seen.

As Mac users we have seen Apple move us relentlessly forward with Mac OS X. That drives many companies and government agencies crazy because they would just as soon settle on an internal suite of COTS and in-house software and be done forever, spending no more money. However, high technology companies like Apple and Google can't afford to do business that way. Smartphones and tablets are the wave of the future, and Google knows as well as anyone that the only way it can keep up with Apple and kick the stuffing out of Microsoft is to build, essentially, a reference platform that shows its partners what they should be investing in.

Android is freely licensed, but carriers are always looking for ways to minimize their efforts and costs and maximize their profits. That's why Apple had to strike the deal it did with AT&T. And that's why Google is selling the Nexus One. In the age of the smartphone, the mantra is move forward fast or become irrelevant. Google and CEO Eric Schmidt learned that in spades from Apple.