250,000 Units? Why Bother?

The Twittering classes are speculating about how many Nexus One phones Google will sell, after a guesstimate by Flurry that put first-week sales at around 20,000 units.  250,000 units in the first year seems to be most retweetable annual projection.

Let’s say the speculators are correct.  Why would Google spend over a year to launch a phone that would sell at a rate approximately 99% lower than the iPhone?

My guess?  Google wants consumers to pressure both carriers and phone manufacturers so that nothing comes between us and the full suite of Google applications and services.  They want the press and a couple hundred thousand owners to tell us what we’re missing on tens of millions of other phones.

Phone makers change their phone’s features for various reasons, including simple product differentiation, carrier demands and engineering pride.  The phones we see have garbage applications and weird interfaces to make us spend more money on services, to satisfy backroom marketing deals or just because a development team wanted to keep a few more paychecks coming.  Verizon designs their phones to create billable user mistakes, Apple and AT&T keep Google Voice out of iPhone’s App Store, and Motorola tries create a hip phone by designing their Blur interface around social networking services.  These designs get in the way of Google’s grand plan to organize the world’s information. 

Probably most consumers don’t know why their phones come with certain features and not with others.  With Nexus One Google is betting that we will see what we’re missing and then figure out why, and then we will start do demand more Google on every phone made. 

Google doesn’t need to make money on Nexus One.  They probably don’t want to compete with their licensees.  All they need is for 250,000 people to see what is possible, and for everyone to hear about it.

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