No sooner than ranting about manufacturers beginning to have the upper hand, Google today confirmed that they intend to turn operators into their bitches.
As you all probably know by now, Google are releasing their own phone called the Nexus One. The phone is nice, good features but definitely no iPhone killer. However as suggested by Mobile Industry Review it represents something much more than that.
About 6 years ago the first Nokia handsets shipped with Wi-Fi capabilities, there was a huge buzz about being able to make free calls over the Internet using your mobile, however operators put a stop to that by strong-arming the manufacturer by literally saying “Disable it or we won’t bulk buy your phones”.
Sure enough the Wi-Fi stayed but the phones never got VOIP calls until YEARS later. And when it did arrive they tried to charge for it. Operators want other stuff too like putting their own maps application on phones, app stores, and a whole bunch of extra crap they were never meant to do. If you’re trying to build something into the core user interface it’s probably better to let the people who made the rest of the phone do it.
This is typical of how things work in the mobile industry, manufacturers bend over backwards for operators because without them it’s extremely difficult to get your latest and greatest mobile into consumers hands.
But what if you’re the most visited company on the web?
Google have told Vodafone they won’t be able to retail the phone themselves. If a customer walks into the Vodafone store or goes online wanting a Nexus One, they will be pointed to the Google.com/phone website.
As Ewan at MIR says:
(yes, it’s powerful, yes it’s got some cool apps) but the real meat was in their strategy of breaking the operator stranglehold on the mobile industry.
Apple has already shown the kind of flex that giant, sought after brands can have on operators.
Of course you’ll still need an operator to get the phone working but that isn’t the point. This is the very, very beginning of a massive shift. This is the first time it’s been done this way and won’t be the last.