Google's Nexus One, Android: Location-based Ad Vehicles

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-01-11 Print this article Print

Google's Nexus One is getting a lot of play, more for Google's business model of selling the Android 2.1 device through its new Webstore than for the actual phone itself.

Review of the device have been unspectacular.

I've written often how Google views the Nexus One and other Android devices as handheld ad distribution gizmos. This is certainly supported by analysts' comments.

PCWorld picked up on a YouTube clip by pundit Mark Russell, who in a sometime rambling, sometime cogent fashion discusses how Google will take the Nexus One and its capabilities further.

He essentially sees Google making the phone, in conjunction with Google Maps Navigation and the location-based What's Nearby and Near Me Now features, a GPS device that throws ads at people as they are driving down the road.

Oh yeah, and supporting all of this would be T-Mobile's network, which Google would have acquired or at least licensed to use. Hear Russell's theory for yourself:

A couple of problems here. I don't see Google buying T-Mobile, though a licensing deal would make sense.

I also don't see how Google would give the phones away for free without a guarantee on the return on investment.

Russell believes users would take the free phone to be bombarded with ads, but given a choice I think users would choose to pay for the phone and hear and see fewer ads than take a free phone and be enslaved to advertising.

PCWorld's David Coursey asks: "How many people would say "no" to a free smartphone, even if it were ad-supported?"

My guess is many. Coursey then sums up why: "Granted, ad-supported Internet service never caught on, mostly because it was both heavy-handed and often irrelevant to the viewer."

I see the ad model Russell proposed as highly relevant for sure. But giving users free phones to push ads onto them is still heavy handed, unless Google provides a way to opt out, or better yet, makes this choice opt-in.

My guess is Google wouldn't make this opt-in any more than it would offer an opt-out choice because it knows people would take the free device and, in with one click of a button, or by blissfully ignoring the opt-in prompt, say in their quiet way "hold the ads, please."

Hence, Russell's theory is great in vision, but unrealistic in a business sense as far as consumers' willingness to give themselves over to the Google Ad Machine.

That's not to say location-based ads won't work. I just don't think consumers will give themselves over to them in such a fashion. Maybe in a few years, but not now.

I much prefer Google's new Click-to-Call ad format, where advertisers display their phone numbers alongside their destination URLs in search ads appearing on mobile devices. Nexus One, iPhone or other smartphone users see the ad, then click to dial the service provider. Now that will work.

Russell isn't the first to suggest this future outlook with location-based ads powering Google's mobile ambitions. VOIP Watch's Andy Abramson has told me a couple times he sees a totally ad-supported model, with Google Voice as the hub.

And, as I've reported, Google has big plans for Google Voice this year.

We don't know exactly how or when they will materialize, but I wouldn't be surprised if the theories by Russell and Abramson were both proven correct. |

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