Google is in the trenches while Apple is in our pockets

Google’s handling of the incredibly hyped Nexus One unveiling at its headquarters today is yet another reminder that Google is no Apple. And that’s not a bad thing. Google knows its purpose and most importantly, what brought it to the powerful position it enjoys today. Google is playing the mobile space from the inside out. It’s building software – both the locally stored and cloud-based variety. It’s made its plans pretty clear from the outset, but for some reason most of us can’t take Google at its word. We are always expecting Google to pull an Apple. Is this really it? The Google Phone? The timing couldn’t have been more prophetic. Circle back to the same week in 2007 when Apple pulled out the iPhone. It absolutely sucked the air out of CES that year. In true Apple fashion it proved that it was right to go against the grain – indeed it paid off with incredible success. By comparison, Google’s news today hit a flat note.

The Nexus One is a great phone. A “superphone” as Google would like it to be called though? I think not. Don’t stretch it, Google. We like you plenty as it is. While it may be tired, every single smartphone that gets released is going to be compared to the iPhone. The wireless world has never been the same after Apple announced the iPhone three years ago then made us wait almost six months before it was released. So how does it stack up against the iPhone? I’ll leave that to the mobile device pros, of which there are many. Par for par it’s a formidable alternative, but so is the Droid, Hero, Eris and other top-of-line Android phones on the market already. In fact, the Nexus One beats the whole crowd when it comes to the specs chart. But a touchscreen device without multitouch (Google says it may come later) just makes you want to “pinch” your fingers together on your phone like all those iPhone users even more. There’s more too and my colleague Dan Meyer at RCR Wireless News hit the point well today: “Analysts were initially looking for Google to provide a more open device that supported a wider variety of networks as well as the possibility of Google either subsidizing the model itself without requiring a contract or even going with a mobile virtual network operator model that would make Google the handset provider and network carrier.” Google did none of that. About as revolutionary as Google got today was to offer its own sales and distribution channel for the device unlocked, but at the whopping price of $529. And when it comes to carrier distribution, it looks pretty familiar: one exclusive carrier at launch, T-Mobile, and for $179 with all the typical strings and schemes that carriers have always employed. With that, the hype bubble floating into Google’s gathering together shrunk down to a more realistic size. Another colleague Tricia Duryee of mocoNews wrote: “While the announcements today seem small in scale for a company that has promised to completely revolutionize the industry, Google’s Andy Rubin promised that more is coming.” We’ll see what Rubin means by that. But for now, I’ll temper my expectations. The major leaps in innovation that propelled the wireless industry forward in the past two or three years will be tough to match in 2010. And since I’m in the gambling mood, as I get ready to hit the open road to Vegas for CES madness tomorrow, I’m willing to bet on it. Not much, but it just sounded right. I’m just hoping to find something there that will surprise me more than the Nexus One.

@CES: Daringly optimistic outlook for Mobile DTV on display

Thwapr aims to simplify video and photo sharing