Google Makes Nexus One Official

Wayne Rash
To the surprise of no one, Google has finally announced its new Android-based smartphone, the Nexus One. The new phone will be offered directly by Google, either with a two-year contract with T-Mobile for $180 or without a contract for $530. The phone will not be locked, so buyers can use the phone on any GSM network, which in the United States means T-Mobile. The Nexus One runs the 2.1 version of Android, the open source, free operating system created by Google.

So far, so good. But the hype that has preceded the Nexus One makes it appear that this is some sort of manna from heaven, which it isn't. It's also unlikely to be something you can use in the enterprise. While it's going to cause rending of garments, gnashing of teeth and cries of anguish, Android doesn't meet most compliance requirements

There are other things you should know about the Nexus One. While it's not locked to T-Mobile, the 3G radios in the device are designed for T-Mobile's version of 3G. That means the Nexus One will support 3G globally with one exception:  The AT&T 3G network in the United States is not supported. While T-Mobile's 3G is not as widespread yet as AT&T's 3G, it's a lot faster since it supports HSPA, which means you get high speed both uploading and downloading. There will also be a Verizon version of the Nexus One in the not-too-distant future.

Another potential positive for the enterprise is that the applications on Android aren't governed by Apple. Instead, they're open source, meaning you can find a wider variety (if not the sheer volume) of applications, and you can write your own. Because it's open source, it's a fairly safe bet that the required levels of security and auditability necessary for regulatory compliance will appear in the not-too-distant future.

As an enterprise IT manager, you're sure to get requests by users to connect their new Nexus One to your network. Your users will point out that Android includes a client for Microsoft Exchange, so the e-mail system will work. But that doesn't mean this product is safe for the enterprise if you have users who need access to protected information, or who receive e-mails containing such information.

In addition, there's the problem that much of the Nexus One depends on Google's cloud-based computing and storage, and that's not necessarily capable of meeting compliance needs, either. This means you have a valid reason for not making the Nexus One part of your enterprise. Perhaps the proper approach is to pass the word that only employees with no access to information covered by compliance rules can use it. So if your CEO wants to use the Nexus One, you can point out that the choice becomes one between being excluded from necessary corporate information, or risking a violation of the law. 

But is the Nexus One a worthwhile phone for those who can use it? That's hard to say just yet. But this phone is being provided worldwide by a company that's not a carrier, and that in itself is a significant step. While T-Mobile is making this an attractive choice, it's not the only choice. And because this device is unlocked, it means that when you travel, you can use a local carrier.

Otherwise, this is another in the line of HTC touch-screen phones being offered by T-Mobile and others. HTC has been a major (but not exclusive) maker of Android devices, and its products, starting with the G1, have been evolutionary. The Nexus One is a nice improvement on T-Mobile's MyTouch, another Android touch-screen device, and at 3.7 inches, it has a bigger screen, but it's not revolutionary.

Google in the past has restricted its hardware offerings to enterprise products such as its search appliance. This is an important step away from the total control that the carriers have had in the past, but it's not as big a step as it could be, because the phone is still tied to T-Mobile for 3G access, and by contract if you want a subsidized price.

But is the hype correct? Is the Nexus One the iPhone killer it's been made out to be? Is it a BlackBerry killer? Of course not. Enterprises use BlackBerries and iPhones for reasons that don't necessarily include the features of the Nexus One, and even if it were substantially more cool than either, it wouldn't kill them. And in the announcement, it's clear that the Nexus One isn't substantially more cool. It's actually just the next in the series of increasingly capable Android devices-not a bad thing, but not a revolution.

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