Google is not omnipotent. Nor is it invulnerable, invincible, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-conquering for everything. The hottest company and brand on the planet is still subject to the laws of business, marketing and the marketplace (4000+ PhD's or whatever aside).
Exhibit A: July 16's announcement that Google is discontinuing the Nexus One, it's Google-branded smartphone. You probably didn't hear much about that announcement (unless you follow ReadWriteWeb
). If you give me just a marketing minute of your time, I'll offer you some reasons why Nexus One is now Nexus Gone, as well as why this might
have been a brilliant piece of strategy for Google.WHY YOU DIDN'T HEAR MUCH ABOUT THIS
For those who have taken Marketing 101 or have a modicum of common sense, this part is pretty easy. Flops don't get big press releases
- While Nexus One may not have been a "flop" per se, given Google's track record and the hype at the announcement of its launch, it's hardly a success. And, when was the last time you read a press release from a company announcing it was discontinuing a product that it had ballyhooed just a few months earlier? That's hardly a typical marketing and PR strategy. So, it's no surprise that Google sort of "ahem-ed" this one over to the side.
People don't care - We've become a "hype society," capable of only paying attention to the Big Bang, the Big Story, the hottest and latest news. If it's a big launch, we hear about it. Big problems get big headlines (and rightly so). But there's an apparent shift in our DNA that has debillitated our ability to stick with a story, a cause, an issue, etc. for more than a short period of time.
As a story gets smaller or drags out over time, people don't pay as much attention. Examples include Hurricane Katrina and the devastation in New Orleans (sad to say it's still a problem, but most of us aren't tuned into the city's continuing plight), Sarah Palin and the Jonas Brothers. There are notable exceptions, e.g.,the OJ Simpson Trial , but those exceptions prove the principal (although you can bet BP is hoping it won't be such an exception). It's almost an iron-clad law in the world of technology.
In the case of the Nexus One, it fell off the radar screen and pretty much went radio silent to most of us. It really wasn't that big a deal as a product, especially as other manufacturers kept upping the ante in feature sets and sex appeal. It also was helped over the awareness edge by the omnipresent hype machine of Apple with its launch of the iPad and iPhone 4 (antenna controversy and all). In other words, zzzzzzz...WHY GOOGLE'S NEXUS ONE DIDN'T WIN IN THE MARKETPLACE
Why did Nexus One, which has a lot of fine features and good things going for it, fall off the radar screen? Because Google is not omnipotent. It can't do EVERYthing well.Google is an outstanding company which may have more smart people per square inch than any company in existence. They're not just smart, they're smart smart. They're determined, aggressive, visionary, daring...find a positive business adjective (other than "cuddly" or "soulful") and it probably applies to Google. I have the utmost respect for the company.However, even smart smart people can't be great at everything. Same goes for companies. No company can beat all comers in all categories, especially when they start to tread outside their core competencies. And, that's what we have here.Google states its mission as follows: to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. And, for the most part, I'd say the company is to be admired for how it has pretty much used that mission statement to guide its ever-growing array of offerings (I'd include Android in that category, as it's an operating system that helps mobile users organize and utilize information).But, as the Nexus One shows, there are limits to how far you can stretch a mission and your competencies. The phone business is hard. It's about optimizing manufacturing efficiency vs. feature inclusion. It's about marketing and selling gadgets to customers, explaining why you need Gadget A and why A is better than B, C, D, E...and so on. It's about pricing models, distribution channels, on-going customer relationships, supply chain management, etc, etc. While Google is many things, the aforementioned are NOT things that Google has been about - being an information services company is a whole lot different than making/selling "things." And, it was up against companies who DO specialize in these capabilities.
To top it off, Google couldn't explain why having an unlocked phone was so important to people...or maybe they didn't feel they needed to or that it wasn't worth the effort. Whatever the case, the result was the same: there was/is no clear, compelling reason to have a Nexus One.And, so, in this case the marketplace won out and Nexus One becomes Nexus Gone. The laws of the marketplace/marketing/jungle (insert desired metaphor here) remain in tact and we're all safe for now. Looking at it this way, this may be a simple case of corporate hubris and cutting losses while the cutting is good.
WHY THIS WAS BRILLIANT...MAYBE
However, I come not to bury Google, but to praise it (apologies to Will Shakespeare for bastardizing his line). In fact, I think this could be brilliant...maybe...for a couple reasons:Nothing ventured, nothing gained...
I had always questioned why the heck Google would want to get into the cutthroat business of mobile hardware in the first place. It is just so much different for them as a company. But, I give them props for pushing their own envelope and see how far it can stretch. If you're not pushing, then you don't grow and you don't learn. You can't fault Google for being afraid to try some different things. Which leads me to...You can't judge a book, or a phone, by its cover
This is for those of you who are into conspiracy theory...While the demise of Nexus One was a "quiet" announcement, and maybe a bit of a yawn to many, I still think it was a worthwhile strategic move for Google. I might even go so far as to say that Google knew all along that this would be the eventual exit path (since there was not much done or spent to market the Nexus One past its initial launch) and did it for other strategic reasons. With its financial war chest and depth of human resources/brainpower, they could afford to toss out a red herring like this with another end game in mind. They're smart people -- I wouldn't put it past 'em.At a minimum, I imagine that Google has learned a lot that will help it to further its service and growth of Android to hardware manufacturers and the telcos. They've "been on the other side" now, which can only further their understanding of customer needs, issues, etc. as they seek to expand Android. That's one potential part of their strategy for launching Nexus One and watching it die so quickly.What else might Google have been thinking? What's their end game? I can't say for sure...I may be smart, but I'm not "smart smart." Or, maybe I'm over-thinking this; maybe I should have stopped this post at "corporate hubris" and not give Google so much credit.I'd be interested in your opinions - what do you think?