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Google Nexus One Reveals Retail Ambitions

The Nexus One, shiny and capable, isn't nearly as significant as Google's move into online retailing.

Google Nexus One Smartphone
(click image for larger view)
Google Nexus One Smartphone

Google's Nexus One is a nice phone. It's fast, attractive, and can run some great software. The Android Market may currently offer less than a fifth as many apps as Apple's iTunes Store and the phone itself my lack the multitouch support that makes iPhone interaction so intuitive, but Nexus One users have access to Google Voice, Google Goggles, and system-wide speech input. The iPhone's lead is diminishing.

Still, phones come and go. Three months from now there will be an even more impressive Android model and in June or July, expect Apple to strike back with a more advanced iPhone.

Consider the Nexus One to be developer bait. At the Nexus One press conference at Google's Mountain View headquarters on Tuesday, Google speakers made it clear that developers don't have to weather an Apple-style approval process when trying to get their apps into the Android Market.

Faced with real competition, Apple has been working to improve its approval process, but it remains to be seen whether more relaxed rules will discourage developers from expanding their horizons to include Android devices.

Within one to two years, app count won't be a meaningful point of differentiation between Android devices and the iPhone.

The real significance of the launch of the Nexus One what it says about Google's commitment to online retailing and the company's apparent aim to broaden its competition with Amazon.

A report issued on Wednesday by research firm Datamonitor says that if Google's online store turns out to be a success, Amazon has reason to be worried. It argues that Google's ambition is to become the first managed device platform vendor.

"The importance of the Nexus One is not in the hardware or pricing, but in Google's control of the complete end-to-end user experience of the handset, from procurement to the delivery of Web services to the device," the report says.

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