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Google unveils smartphone

California, January 6, 2010

Google has launched its much awaited new smartphone, the Nexus One, that it will sell directly to consumers, aiming to boost its position in the emerging mobile Internet market by exerting greater control over the new generation of Web-surfing devices.

The sleek touchscreen phone is Google's boldest foray outside its traditional Internet home turf and represents the first time the 11-year-old company will sell a consumer electronics device bearing its well-known brand.

Announcing the launch at a press event at its Mountain View, California headquarters on Tuesday, Mario Queiroz, Vice President of Product Management for Google, said the phone will feature a 9.4 cm touchscreen display, an accelerometer chip, and a 5 megapixel camera.

It will run the 2.1 version of the Android operating system and also feature OLED display technology, a trackball for user interface control, Queiroz added.

The Nexus One ships immediately and exclusively from Google's online store for $179 with a two-year contract from Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA, or $529 without a service plan.

The highly anticipated Nexus One, which Google designed in close collaboration with hardware maker HTC, could provide Google with a viable challenge to the iPhone and Research in Motion's BlackBerry.

But analysts say the phone is not as revolutionary in design as Apple Inc's iPhone was. Tech websites and forums gave Google favorable reviews but also noted the new phone was not that different from others in the market that run Google's Android software, such as Motorola's Droid.

The more expensive unlocked phone, analysts say, is priced too high to dramatically alter the relationship between carriers and hardware vendors in which wireless service providers have traditionally controlled handset distribution in the US.

It 'wasn't the game-changer people thought it could be,' Canaccord Adams analyst Jeff Rath said. Google could have shaken up the industry by offering the device for free, but instead chose more traditional pricing, he said.

Executives said the phone could be profitable for Google, though analysts are not forecasting a revenue windfall in the short term.

But the move raises the stakes in the fast-growing smartphone business which it entered two years ago by developing the free Android software for smartphones made by other companies.

Google's decision to sell its own Google-branded phones is 'a sea change in terms of Google now owning the customer, making the carrier a little bit less relevant to the conversation and maintaining more control over the hardware and software experience because they realize they're competing with players like Apple and the iPhone,' said Michael Gartenberg, vice president of strategy and analysis at market research firm Interpret.

The Nexus One is the first of a variety of smartphones that Google said were in the pipeline as the company seeks to expand its reach from the PC to the mobile world and ensure its online products and ads get prominent placement on a new breed of wireless Internet devices.

Executives said that in the spring Google will sell phones that use Verizon Wireless's network in the United States and Vodafone's in Europe. Verizon Wireless is a joint venture between Verizon Communications and Vodafone.

According to Forrester research, 17 per cent of US mobile phone users had smartphones at the end of 2009, up from 11 percent a year earlier.

Investors are taking a wait-and-see view on Google's first effort to sell a hardware product directly to consumers.

Google's stock has risen about 7 per cent since the start of December, setting a 52-week high of $629.51 on Monday. But analysts say that was driven by improvements in its core business of Internet search advertising, rather than the prospect of tapping a new pool of revenue selling smartphones.

The Nexus One is 11.5mm thick and weighs 130 grams - which executives said was lighter than a Swiss Army knife and no thicker than a No.2 pencil.-Reuters




Tags: Google | Smartphone | unveil | Nexus One |

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