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3rd November
written by Chris

I am not a marketing person. In fact, as a technology person, I tend to find marketing people frustrating and infuriating. Most of what they say leads me to suspect that they might just be making things up as they go along. I’m not saying that’s the way marketing works, but I often can’t shake that nagging doubt.

Then again, there are clear cut cases where marketing is done well and its done badly. Apple knows how to market. Google does not.

Let me state, from the outset, that I’m an Android fan. I got an OG Droid (that’s the original Droid for those of you who don’t frequent Android news forums) back in 2009 and I’ve been hugely happy with it. No, it’s not as snappy or as polished as an iPhone, but it can do a lot of stuff that an iPhone can’t and I can tinker with it, which appeals to my more dwarfish (in the Tolkienian sense) sensibilities.

So one can imagine how pleased I was to learn that not only is Google going to release its next generation phone very shortly and that it will be running the latest and greatest version of Android to boot, but that said release lines up fairly nicely with my eligibility for a phone upgrade.

Except… that was two months ago.

Since then, Google has gone back and forth on the release date for their phone. They’ve hosted a lack-luster demo of the technology in Hong Kong (of all places) which ended up being an exercise in watching an executive awkwardly stumble through features with neither enthusiasm nor any real finesse. They’ve even confused the issue by refusing to stick with a consistent naming and branding strategy. I honestly don’t know if the phone — which is apparently due out later this month — will be the Galaxy Nexus or the Nexus Prime.

Imagine, if you will, if Apple had run this product launch. For starters, there would be no branding confusion. Google’s original Nexus isn’t a going concern anymore. They’d call the new phone the “Nexus S” or something like that (which everyone would immediately mentally shorten to “Nexus”) and have done with it. They’d have gathered a bunch of media, fanboys, and bloggers into a huge auditorium in California somewhere and done the launch live in the AM hours, thereby ensuring that everyone in their major target markets (the US and Europe) can watch it live either at work or at home. Finally, they’d have committed, on screen and in huge easy to read type, during the presentation to both a price-point (with contract) and a release date. Preorder screens would have gone up in the middle of the presentation and by close of business that day folks who wanted the new phone would have to do nothing but wait for the drop date with an optional “wait in the overnight line for the phone because you’re crazy” event for a midnight release.

This isn’t difficult stuff. Apple products have their shortcomings but if they’ve done one thing it is establish to almost formulaic accuracy, the correct way to launch a piece of consumer electronics. This requires no great Madison Avenue agencies, no fantastically expensive MBA laden consultancies, just a willingness to emulate success. Instead, Google as opted for a strategy which has confounded and frustrated its most devoted customers at every turn and a lot of people have chosen to go with a competing device rather than try to guess when the Galaxy-Nexus-Prime will drop.

Android has made some impressive gains on the smartphone OS market these last few years but Google performance in this launch forces me to conclude that this isn’t because of, but rather in spite of, the company’s understanding of the consumer electronics market.

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