Saturday, June 6, 2009

Oh oh it's Magic!

Leaving Hamburg after 4 days at the User and Open Innovation 2009 conference.

Here in Hamburg, I saw no sign of the iPhone (except in the hands of my well-educated professor friends). In fact, the only mobile device I saw promoted was the HTC Magic, aka the G2. Of course, Vodafone needs the G2 to counteract the Deutsche Telekom iPhone 2.0, and presumably DT (T-Mobile) will be promoting the iPhone 3.0 when it ships later this summer.

Still, there were more ads for the G2 than I recall for the G1 when it launched in the US. (In fact, I don’t recall seeing TV for print media ads for the T-Mobile USA G1 until it was getting stale — perhaps because the free Android publicity was enough to carry it the first few months.)

In the HVV subway system, there were both posters and a poster-sized video board extolling the G2’s praises on Vodafone’s dime. The ads were clearly branded as Vodafone, with its garish red (not to be confused with the orange of Orange).
Still, from the big print on the displays, I really only learned three things about the device. First, it has a big color screen. (Big compared to what? I dunno, but it was nearly 1 meter high).

The second thing was that it’s “Ab 1,€”. It doesn’t take my high school German to know that means “from $1.40”. The fine print on the paper poster notes the requirement of a 24 month contract with some sort of minimum subscription plan. The fine print also said the phone is exclusive to Vodafone until July 31.

The final point — more prominent in the video ad than the paper one — was that the phone is “mit Google”. All of the screenshots in the video have the Google G search bar—with “Google-suche” as the search text in case that’s too subtle. Two frames say “Das neue HTC Magic mit Google™.” One of these shows the back side of the phone “with Google” imprinted next to the camera lens.

As others have reported, the Google branded phone is only available on Android handsets that have the Google applications (such as search and mail) pre-installed as the default choice. It’s not quite the same as Microsoft’s bundling of Internet Explorer and Windows Media that brought antitrust lawsuits in the 1990s — but the principle is the same.

Of course, Android doesn’t have 90+% market share of Windows. Also, its lawyers noted that mollifying competition authorities merely required distributing the OS without the bundled applications. Still, I find it interesting that Europe’s largest mobile phone carrier found it necessary to promote/leverage the Google brand to sell a handset.Note to overseas readers: title is reference to a hit song by the Electric Light Orchestra.

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