Google is a software company. Google’s best known product is probably its search engine, but over the last few years the company has also launched the Google Docs online office suite, acquired YouTube, and introduced the Android operating system for smartphones, among other things. And Google is working a new operating system for netbooks called Chrome OS, which will have the Google Chrome web browser at its core.
But earlier this year the company did launch one high profile piece of hardware to go with it software. The Google Nexus One phone was probably the most advanced phone around when it was introduced in January, thanks to its 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, OLED display, and Android 2.1 operating system. Half a year later, those specs hardly make the Nexus One stand out, and Google has already stopped offering the phone (which is manufactured by HTC) on its web site.
But while the Nexus One, which was never sold in stores, hasn’t been the runaway sales success that competing phones like the iPhone 4 or even the Motorola Droid have been, Google seems pretty happy with how things worked out. The idea, Google CEO Eric Schmidt tells the Telegraph, was to move forward development of smartphone hardware to match the needs and capabilities of the Android operating system. And while a relatively small number of Nexus One phones were sold, there are at least half a dozen phones with similar specs already available. Mission accomplished.
Of course, that leads to the natural question: Will Google use a similar strategy with netbooks? There’s been speculation for ages that the company was planning to launch a Google-branded netbook. But Schmidt says Google probably “won’t need to,” because “the PC industry is different from the phone industry.” In other words, the hardware is already available and PC makers already know how to build systems which will meet the needs of Chrome OS.
It doesn’t sound like Schmidt is completely ruling out the possibility of a Google netbook. If PC makers decide to take their own approach to Chrome OS hardware… and if it’s an approach that Google isn’t happy with, the company has already shown that it’s willing to bring its own product to market to shake things up a bit.
But it’s also possible that this is all just positive spin after the fact. Maybe Google does consider the Nexus One a failure, and maybe similarly powerful phones from HTC, Motorola, Samsung, LG, and others would have hit the market even if the Nexus One never saw the light of day.
So maybe Google simply scrapped any plans for a Google netbook after realizing that people don’t want Google hardware. They want Google software. Millions of phones running Google Android are already available. They just don’t have the Google name on the back of the case like the Nexus One does. Android has been a huge success, whether you consider the Nexus One to be a successful product or not.