First Published on Technorati: December 15, 2009 at 6:33 am
Reuters on Monday quoted an unnamed source that confirmed plans for Google to sell both a locked and unlocked version of the leaked Nexus One device, with the locked version sold to T-Mobile US customers. T-Mobile official sources would not confirm the plan; however, former employees at the company reminded us that today unlocked versions of the T-Mobile G1 and T-Mobile MyTouch are sold through the official Android Developer website.
The site reminds developers that end user devices available through consumer retail outlets “are not designed to allow system image updates by the user,” the site says. It goes on to say, “If you are interested in manually updating the device with custom system images, then you'll need a developer device such as the Android Dev Phone 1.” Android Dev Phone 1 is unique finish of the T-Mobile G1, while Android Dev Phone 2 a variation of the HTC Magic, also known as the T-Mobile MyTouch.
In addition to providing developers with phones to run custom builds of the Android software, Google must also provide reference hardware for developers in markets where T-Mobile US does not provide service. Unlocked phones would give those Google employees in countries like China or India the opportunity to build solutions concurrently with new major OS release builds.
In addition, Google has an enterprise agreement with AT&T to offer employee discount plans, like many US corporations do. AT&T has built a strong base of customers through enterprise sales, which are often designed to enable payroll deductions for wireless service and provide group purchasing power for employees.
Google maintains the Nexus One devices were handed out to employees to encourage “dogfooding”, or internal use of the pre-release product by employees to de-bug and accelerate innovation. However, for a significant number of employees to engage in that activity, the phones needed to be unlocked so their AT&T SIM would provide them a live service experience. Unlocking the device could signal a broader need for testers against a new major OS release, or significant changes to the hardware that triggered bugs across existing applications.
The unlocked G1 devices sold through the Android Developer site did not seem to put a dent into demand for the T-Mobile product, which reached its million-unit mark in Q2 of this year. For Google to drive a substantial number of unlocked units into the market, they will need a reseller partner or retailer who can manage fulfillment, returns, insurance and warranty of the hardware, something that has taken Apple years to develop for themselves.
Related story: Moconews.net "Google Phone May Be Much Ado About Nothing"