At least here on the right coast, Thanksgiving is over. Countless helpings of stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and turkey are making their slow, painful way through our battered digestive tracts. My wife made us all stop stuffing our faces briefly and think about what we're thankful for. Family, friends, a warm home, etc., etc. I'd be lying if I said that some years I considered adding Google to that list. After all, their services help me and millions of other people communicate, collaborate, run our businesses, make money, and make sense of the vast Interwebs.
The past 10 days, though, the blogosphere, Twitter, and Google+ have been buzzing about the utter mess that marked what should have been their single most significant product launch in the company's history. More than a few folks called out the more vehement bloggers and posters (including yours truly), telling us to stop whining about our first-world problems and give Google a break. "Boo hoo...you can't get your new phone before Thanksgiving." "Companies make mistakes...get over it." "Go buy an iPhone and quit complaining." "It's just a *#@!-ing phone."
This isn't about me (or anyone else) getting a new phone, though. And it's not "just a [insert expletive of your choice here] phone. The Nexus 4 is a direct attack on the US wireless industry. How could a $300 unlocked phone, on which Google even took the risk of excluding LTE to short circuit negotiations with carriers, not be a game-changer in a country of contracts, lock-ins, and dismal competition?
The phone is also a direct attack on Apple. As I write this, Apple is "busy updating the store" but unlocked 16GB iPhone 5's run $649 (or closer to $900 if you head for Amazon to try and find one). $300 for an unlocked phone with arguably better or comparable specs? Yes, it's an iPhone attack, score 1 for Google.
It's also a chance for Google to show the world that Android doesn't need to be hobbled by carriers or the fragmentation that has caused developers to create apps for iOS first and Android as a pain-in-the-butt afterthought. At $300, a lot of people can potentially be using the latest and greatest version of Android, updated directly and regularly by the great and powerful GOOG itself. This isn't a low-volume, Nexus One-esque device. The Nexus 4 could be the Android superphone for everyone (or at least for a large cross-section of smartphone buyers).
And Google blew the launch.
No, I'm not whining about my new phone. From a business and PR perspective, this makes the privacy gaffes around Google Buzz look like a minor stumble. And it's my job to look at this from the business (as well as the consumer) perspectives.
To make matters worse, Google has been first inconsistent and confusing in its communications with consumers and silent in its communications with media and the larger community. Just an hour and a half before I received my backorder email, Google Play Support responded to an email inquiry telling me that my phone would ship the next day. A few days ago, they sent a followup email thanking me for the opportunity to answer my questions and asking if I was satisfied with the resolution. Uhhhhhh...no.
Other backordered buyers have been told to "just keep checking" their Google Wallet accounts for updates. I'm not making that up. Requests for comment from Google have been answered with silence. Nothing on the Google Blog. Not even an attempt to spin the mess with talk of "unprecedented demand" or a "market hungry for a different way of doing business". Not even a mea culpa. Just the occasional cricket chirping in Mountain View. Or is that what missed opportunities sound like?
Oh well...at least I have pumpkin pie.