Behold the Google phone

The early reviews of the Nexus One are in. Apple might have something to think about

Topics: Google, Smart Phones, How the World Works, iPhone, Android,

Google debuted its Nexus One phone today; the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg and Web 2.0 arch-maven Tim O’Reilly have already published long thoughtful reviews. Mossberg calls the phone a potential “game-changer” and says it is the first phone using Google’s Android operating system that “I could consider carrying as my everyday hand-held computer.”

Tim O’Reilly echoes that sentiment, adding that “Gmail is so good on the phone that I can, for the first time, imagine being totally without my laptop.”

As always, Mossberg runs the phone through its paces as a gadget, but O’Reilly offers the more interesting analysis, contrasting the way Google is embedding the phone into the Web with how Apple still operates on a more PC-based platform. O’Reilly believes that in the long run, devices that can take advantage of the “big” data possibilities inherent in cloud computing will win out. The Nexus One, he writes, is “a connected device in a way that is more fundamental than any previous phone.”

What we see then is a collision of paradigms, perhaps as profound as the transition between the character-based era of computing and the GUI based era of the Mac and Windows. We’re moving from the era in which the device is primary and the web is an add-on, to the era in which a device and its applications are fundamentally dependent on the Internet operating system that provides location, speech recognition, image recognition, social network awareness, and other fundamental data services.

We’re in for an interesting ride.

The pace of innovation in what Mossberg calls “the super-smart phone space” is extraordinary to behold. Both O’Reilly and Mossberg go into great detail comparing the Nexus One and the iPhone, feature by feature, but all the information is relevant only if you are in the market for a new phone today. Six months from now, these phones will be dinosaurs, as Apple and Google and RIM and Microsoft fight it out for control of the … uh … nexus. This is what competition is supposed to look like.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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