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Nexus One : Wishful thinking

Destripando un Nexus One

Fabricar un móvil es un proceso terriblemente complejo. Requiere poner de acuerdo a diseñadores e ingenieros esparcidos por medio mundo, a decenas de proveedores que suministran cientos de piezas, afinar lineas de producción, estrategias de marketing, precios, países..

Horace Luke, Chief Innovation Officer de HTC, contaba algo de todo este engranaje en el post de ayer. Hoy os dejo con el complemento: un Nexus One destripado, con sus piezas más importantes al aire y datos de fabricantes y coste, facilitados por iSuppli.

Un Nexus One libre cuesta, al cambio, 387 euros (530 dólares). Sin embargo, sus materiales cuestan 126 euros. El resto (descontando coste de personal, marketing…) se lo embolsan Google y HTC en un porcentaje que se empeñana en no desvelar. Ahí va el gráfico:

HTC: “The Nexus One is not better than the iPhone; it´s different”

If you wonder why the Nexus One is built on metal, and not plastic, why its large and thin, has an Amoled display and a 1GHz chip, you should ask Horace Luke.

He´s the man in charge of innovation and design in the taiwanese mobile phone manufacturer.

Close to 200 designers and engineers report to him. “I spend 50% of my time in Taiwan, at HTC headquarters, and 25% in between Seattle and San Francisco, where we have two of our design offices”. What about the remaining 25%? “I spend it flying from one place to another”, he laughs.

I had the chance of talking to Horace some weeks ago for an article I wrote about mobile phone design and manufacturing. You can read the full piece here, published last month in EL PAÍS (CiberPaís).

Here´s an extract of some of his most interesting thoughts about the Nexus One and the iPhone. Might come in handy now that Apple has declared legal war on HTC:

Q: How did HTC come up with the design for the Nexus One?
A: Peter Chang, our CEO, has a long working relationship with Andy Rubin, from Google. They happened to have dinner together, we knew Google wanted to build a phone, we sketched out some ideas on rendering and had a quick conversation over dinner. The final design was not very different from the sketch.
The Nexus One is constructed in metal, is not just a piece of plastic. Most manufacturers in Europe shy away from metal, it´s antenna´s worst enemy. But we wanted to push the boundaries there. Also in visual terms, with the Amoled display, and performance, with the Snapdragon chip at 1GHz. It was a 9-month design process.

Q: You seem to dismiss the use of plastic in mobile phones….
A: Using plastic is the easy way out. Today a phone is no longer a tool, five years ago it was. Today, a phone is a personal object, if you leave your wallet at home, you are ok. But if you leave your phone at home, you come back to pick it. I would never let my team get out with a simple use of plastic. I want to build beautiful objects of desire.

Q: Why do you think the Nexus One is better than the iPhone from a design perspective?

A: I wouldn´t say it´s better, it´s different. The Nexus One is a balance between horse power and form factor. The Amoled display uses much less power than the iPhone. It is hard to compare, it´s like vanilla ice cream, some people like it, some not. For the Nexus One we did about 10 designs and one jumped off the pages. For other projects, we had to do, literally, 1.000 designs.

Q: How many people work in mobile phone design at HTC?

A: We have about 60 people on the research side. Their job is 99% based on failure, 1% on success. Then we have about 20 people that come up with new design ideas, they do the tests, focus groups, talk to customers, test prototypes on mobile operators… they are based on a 70%-30% failure-success rate. And then we have about 100 people in pure design, they decide the size, components, colours… they have to be 95% success. I oversee all these people.

Q: Where do you manufacture your phones?
A: In Taiwan. The building where we manufacture most of our phones in next to our design offices. We have built a bridge between the design facilities and the first line of manufacturing. They need to be highly integrated.

Q: Other players, like Apple, outsource all of their production to Chinese suppliers. Do you think it´s a good strategy?
A: I think you need a balance. We want to lead in product innovation. To have control over that, and over your time to market, you need to control the manufacturing process too.

Q: Is still Japan a reference in mobile phone design?

A: I don´t think they lead in design, they are a very unique market. They are more experimental. What works in the western world may not work in Japan, and the other way around.

“Don´t be evil” or… “Think Different”?

BusinessWeek dedica su portada a la batalla abierta entre Google y Apple a raíz del Nexus One. Una batalla, de momento, imaginaria: Google sólo ha vendido 20.000 unidades durante la primera semana en EE UU, frente a los 1,6 millones de iPhones 3GS vendidos en el mismo periodo tras su lanzamiento.

El artículo publica la tabla de la izquierda, con comparaciones curiosas entre ambas empresas, no sólo de datos, también de cultura empresarial: mientras los empleados de Google destinan el famoso 20% del tiempo a “sus labores”, en Apple dedican “el 120% a lo primero que se le antoja a Mr. Jobs”.

El trabajo en Apple se hace a golpe de obsesión. No hay más que ver a Jonathan Ive (jefe de jefes de diseño en Cupertino) al final de este magnífico vídeo, donde lo reconoce en los últimos segundos. En Google reina más el disfrute, el libre albedrío de mentes brillantes bajo un invisible hilo de control.

BW apunta a un área en la que Apple podría irrumpir con fuerza: publicidad en el móvil. Según Gartner, este mercado mueve hoy apenas 2.000 millones de dólares a nivel mundial, frente los 60.000 millones de la publicidad online. La llegada del tablet, junto a la compra de Quattro, podría dar un vuelco a los anuncios en equipos móviles.

En los dos próximos años, con Windows Mobile en caída libre, la puja entre Apple y Google será bestial. Por ahora, el App Store supera las 130.000 aplicaciones, siete veces más que el Android Market. Apple ha arañado el 14% de cuota del mercado mundial de smartphones, frente al 3,5% de todos los modelos Android.

Pero es pronto para avanzar acontecimientos. La distancia entre la sede de Google en Mountain View y la de Apple en Cupertino es de apenas 15 kilómetros. En Silicon Valley, todos los vasos son comunicantes.