Jun 272012

You knew there had to be a reason that the Nexus Q was announced at a $299 price point. My personal predictions ranged from solid gold resistors to real unicorn tears flowing through the snazzy LED ring that circles the device’s dome. Turns out I was way off. The Q owes its roadkill pricing to being Born in the USA (mostly).

That’s right: none other than the New York Times plays the role of Google spin stooge by reporting that “Google says the price is due in part to the higher costs of manufacturing in the United States.” If you want to know where in the U.S. the Q’s components are made – or which components aren’t – you’re going to have a slightly more difficult time of it:

Google is not saying a lot about its domestic manufacturing, refusing to even publicly disclose where the factory is in Silicon Valley. It also is not saying much about the source of many of its parts in the United States. And Mr. Rubin said the company is not engaged in a crusade.

If this PR stunt was an attempt to shame Apple for its overseas manufacturing, it’s a flop on at least three levels. First, as Tim Cook pointed out in his appearance at D10, Apple does manufacture components in the U.S.: the iPhone’s and iPad’s glass and A5 processors were mentioned specifically. Second, Google’s “Made in the U.S.A” label doesn’t stand up to scrutiny very well:

The engineers who led the effort to build the device, which is based on the same microprocessor used in Android smartphones and which contains seven printed circuit boards, found the maker of the zinc metal base in the Midwest and a supplier for the molded plastic components in Southern California. Semiconductor chips are more of a challenge. In some cases, the chips are made in the United States and shipped to Asia to be packaged with other electronic components.

So what is this – 51% manufactured in the United States? I know you want to be all modest, Andy, when you claim you’re “not engaged in a crusade”, but spill it. What was made where? Surely you don’t think device-makers will flock to the people who manufacture your overpriced set-top box just so they can disingenuously claim it was made in this country? Lastly, who does Google think this schtick is appealing to – aside from the NYT hacks who are lapping it up? Made in the U.S.A. may mean something to people choosing a pickup truck, but it means squat to people making up the consumer electronics market – especially when your kit is $200 more than your competition’s.

Like a lot of Google’s attempted spin, the “Born in the U.S.A.” crock is based on laughably incomplete information, designed to smear a competitor who doesn’t engage in the behavior as described and totally overvalues the message’s effect on the consumer.

 Posted by at 4:18 pm
Jun 272012

Another failed TMA entry into Google’s I/O Banner Contest

I’m sure you were all breathlessly glued to your browsers watching Google’s I/O keynote today. As has been the case every year, the crew from Mountain View demoed some interesting products that either made you question why they exist or are riding the coattails of someone else’s earlier offering.

The Nexus Q is a decidedly different take on the AppleTV and by “different,” I mean “unexplainable.” The spherical device is designed to be a media hub for Google Play, but for reasons I can’t fathom, it’s a lot more than that. It has a built-in speaker and 25-watt amp, which are odd features for a product designed to be integrated into a home theater setup. What purpose does the speaker serve? People with basic home theater/HTPC setups have at least a left, right and center channel speaker, so why include one that will be, at best, superfluous? And why the built-in amp? Only the most basic setups don’t have an amp, and almost all of them have one built into the tuner. You can also be sure it’s better than the one in Google’s device. Does Google really see their market as one where people plug their speakers directly into their device? These additions would be little more than curiosities if it wasn’t for the price. The Q will sell for $299, three times as much as an AppleTV and more than any of the current Google TV set-top devices.

The device’s other big selling point is that it’s the first “social media player,” which is hilarious for a company that has failed the balls off of social to date. According to the demo, your neckbeard friends – who also obviously have Android devices – can use it to create music playlists that can be streamed to your overpriced hub (edit: apparently they – and you – must have Android devices to use the thing; the Q won’t work as a stand-alone player). I predict a wave of Nexus Q parties that will rival Microsoft’s Windows 7 parties in popularity. You can also watch YouTube videos together, which is obviously a much more popular social activity than I had previously realized. So the Q is an attempt to integrate home theater components that people already own in a package that costs more than any other comparable device, while offering nothing to justify the premium. This thing is going to be a massive fail.

Gee, I wonder how it’s going to end this time.

Next up was the widely predicted Nexus tablet, the Nexus 7. Google went the other way on this device, offering a 7″ tablet that hoses the Amazon Fire’s specs for the same price: $199. The keynote speakers billed the N7 (apologies to Commander Shepard) as a device that brings your content front and center, which is pretty much the lead sentence of the Fire’s marketing brochure. And while there were some pretty impressive Google Play partnerships announced during the keynote for movie, TV show and magazine content, Google can’t seriously think it can be competitive with Amazon when it comes to content access. The two tangible advantages the Nexus 7 offers over Amazon’s current Fire are specs and Jelly Bean. Expect Amazon – being Amazon – to immediately slash the prices of its Fire and probably release a device with juicier guts for the same price. Remember what Amazon did to the Kindle once the iPad was announced? Lather, rinse, repeat. Because the Fire is a forked Gingerbread device, its OS may be caught lagging, but that matters to 5% of the people who will be choosing between it and a Nexus 7, especially if the Fire gets a price cut. If Amazon can produce a $99 Fire or match the performance of the 7, Google’s device will faceplant with the market that doesn’t include Google I/O attendees. When Microsoft announced the Surface, at least they understood the market in which they were competing when it pulled the device’s manufacturing under its umbrella.

In summary, the Nexus Q integrates the wrong features into a product that is an automatic non-starter in the current set-top landscape. The Nexus 7 is trying to bounce the king of loss-leaders with a faster version of a device that was announced last year. My prediction? Pain.

 Posted by at 2:42 pm
Jun 272012

After over a year, Apple managed to obtain a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in its home country.

Forgive me if the cork remains firmly lodged in my champagne bottle.

The 10.1 is a product in the last phase of a decidedly lackluster lifecycle, having been recently succeeded by the Galaxy Tab 2. Released to the undiscerning hordes in March of last year, the original Tab’s sales may have been “quite smooth” by Samsung’s accounts, but if you look at any of the analyst community’s accounting, sales were somewhere between “jack” and “shit”. This view is re-enforced by the amount of the bond Apple has to post – in case the injunction is overturned – to affect it: $2.6 million. If you take the $450 asking price, that’s less than 6,000 units. There were more iPads sold in the time it takes you to read this sentence.

You could make the argument that Apple’s win sets a precedent, but it’s not much of an argument. Samsung already designed around Apple’s IP to the satisfaction of the German courts with the 10.1N and the company has 3 other form factors (7″, 7.7″ and 8.9″), not to mention the pocket-busting 5.3″ Galaxy Note. It may get some traction with the 10.1″ Tab 2, but who knows how long round 2 of the Apple IP circlejerk will last.

So after a year of stalling, maneuvering, and more stalling, Samsung managed to keep its iPad knock-off on the U.S. market for over a year. Apple prevailed in the end, but only in the most Pyrrhic sense.

 Posted by at 9:03 am
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