Google launched the Nexus One phone on Jan. 5 to no surprise and with little flash. One reviewer said the presentation was “underwhelming.” Of course, that’s exactly what Google intended. Here’s why and here’s what your church can learn:
1. Google is not interested in a big splash. Back in the fall of 2007, Google announced the Android operating system, an open source system with an open handset alliance to go with it. Reviews were mixed, prognostications abounded, Google was questioned, and so on. Same with any product launch. But Google knew where they were headed.
2. Google has a strategy. The strategy was “let some other folks play around with this,” which is classic postmodern, collaborative thinking. Let’s see what someone comes up with. To much fanfare, and not a little disappointment, the first Google phone, the G1, was offered by T-Mobile. It was widely trashed, but still it was the first. “It’s no iPhone” was the big complaint. But Google’s strategy isn’t to be Apple – hardware and software locked up together. Google’s strategy is to control the entire computing “cloud” experience. Mobile is the next piece of that. Here’s a site that agrees with me.
3. Google is good at iteration. They keep making it better, in other words. Incrementally, one step at a time, no splash, just good solid one-at-a-time improvements. No Steve Jobs, no big gathering of fan boys, just “here’s what we did to push Android to the limits.” So now the G1 looks really ancient, and even the Droid is looking a little outdated. One step at a time.
4. Google is good at disrupting models. But the big thing about the Nexus One is that Google will sell it to you directly, without the mobile phone provider involved. Of course, you have to have some type of plan, and right now it’s just T-Mobile, but for the first time you can buy a legally unlocked phone in the U.S. I bought an unlocked phone in Hong Kong in 1999. I used three different GSM cards, which enable users to access cellular phone services anywhere within cellular coverage, as I traveled from Hong Kong, to China and then to the U.S. Google has just poked every mobile phone carrier in the eye with a sharp stick, but they are apparently lining up to Google’s door anyway.
5. Google is in this for the long haul. Google isn’t after the one big splash or the big event. They’re building their company on what they believe. Remember when Google search first started? No photos, no fancy text, no graphics. I thought it was completely lame. But it was fast, and it got faster, and they indexed the web better, and their algorithms delivered better results, all so that they could place ads in front of people.
Oh, they’re still in the advertising business, they said. Only now, they’re going to push ads out in a variety of ways to mobile phones, e-book readers, netbooks and all the other devices that will run Android. And we thought all the Google stuff was free.
So the lesson for churches is obvious. Be more like Google. Take the long view, go for the next step, disrupt the culture a bit, but keep on plugging. My money is (figuratively speaking, of course) on Google’s approach. And I like the “do no evil” thing, too.
Chuck Warnock is pastor of Chatham Baptist Church in Chatham, Virginia.