What the Death of the Nexus 9 Really Says About Google

nexus91Yesterday, Alphabet/Google removed its flagship tablet–and the successor to Dark Android Project tablet favorite, the ASUS-developed 2013 Nexus 7–the HTC-developed Nexus 9 from the Google Store. Effectively, the Nexus 9 is dead.

While I’ve recommended the Nexus 9 to some in the past that were looking for something a bit “more” than the 2013 Nexus 7 (which I still recommend, and still gets updated to the latest versions of Android), it is admittedly a device that has been riddled with issues for a good chunk of time after its release (though I think most of the bugs had been worked out as late). And some people questioned the build quality of the Nexus 9 overall, especially for the price tag, but I never felt it was that bad, but in contrast to the rock-solid 2013 Nexus 7 (arguably the greatest tablet ever built), I guess I can understand those gripes.

Originally released in November 2015, this device’s lifespan was only a little over a year. That’s not uncommon for a smartphone, but we’re talking about a tablet here. The Nexus 7’s and the Nexus 10 were available for sale by Google for years and years after their release, so it is strange that it was so quietly removed from the Google Store.

SIDE NOTE: It’s believable that at the upcoming Google I/0 2016 there will be new tablets being released by Google, and there is already evidence that HTC is making new devices again for Google. But keep in mind that in the past Google generally didn’t remove past devices from their store just because a new one had come out.

What does this mean for Nexus 9 owners? Historically, Google has been pretty good about releasing updates for Nexus devices across the board (as I mentioned before, the 2013 Nexus 7–at over 3 years old–is still updated by Google, running the latest Android Marshmallow nearly on release day of the new Android version). But I wonder about the Nexus 9. I wonder about any Google product or service, really. I can’t tell you for certain that your Nexus 9 is going to get Android N, now. A few months ago? I would absolutely have believed that the Nexus 9 would get the next to versions of Android with ease. But now I’m not so certain.

The laundry list of Alphabet/Google products that have been cancelled or removed, regardless of how popular or not-so-popular they are, is lengthier than most tech giants could claim. There’s even a Pinterest page called “Google Graveyard” that has a very hard time keeping up with all of them, and again, some of these were exceptionally popular. And Google has garnered some heavy–and deserved–criticism over their recent cancelling of updates and support for the Revolv Hub.

I hope you’re getting my gist here. I’m getting to the point now where I wouldn’t recommend using a single Google service or Google product. While not supporting products and services that you don’t pay any money for is one thing, dropping support for things you spend hundreds of dollars for–like the Nexus 9 and other devices–is a whole other ball game. That’s your hard-earned money. And it isn’t stretching very far if Google has its way. And as to their free services? Yeah, you can’t complain that they’re gone or get taken away from you, but you’re a fool if you start depending on them in the first place…well, you’re a fool going forward, in my opinion.

SIDE NOTE: I still recommend the 2013 Nexus 7–which you can get for exceptionally cheap–as even if Google doesn’t update it to Android N, it still has such a massive community around it, it’ll get 3rd party support like CyanogenMod for years to come likely. The singular Google “service” that I don’t think is going anywhere is YouTube/Google Play Music. As I’ve theorized on my tech podcast, Sovryn Tech, I think eventually YouTube/Music is going to be most of what Google does. They’ll be an entertainment company, not a search company.

I don’t know exactly what’s going through Alphabet/Google’s head, but they are obviously not living in reality. You can’t go around telling people that you’re giving them or selling them this “amazing new you-didn’t-know-you-couldn’t-live-without” product or service and that pulling the rug out from underneath them. Alphabet/Google’s narrative as a company is full of crap. Some Google fanboys would claim that this is just Alphabet/Google figuring out fast what works and what doesn’t, and this is just a turbulent time, and I could accept that, honestly. But then when they cancel a service or product, they need to open it up. Open-source everything around it, and give control over to the users and consumers (which, to their credit, Google had done with the brilliant and simple Google Sky Map app, which is now completely open-source and is still privately developed). There are right ways and wrong ways to put an end to things, and Alphabet/Google’s track record is generally the wrong way.

SIDE NOTE: Contrast this to Microsoft, which has a successful business model based around backwards-compatibility and support (did you know that Microsoft is only one of two companies with an S&P “AAA” rating still, and that the other company is Johnson & Johnson?). Microsoft likely would’ve “died” as a company a decade ago if they didn’t engage in such support, and ten years from now Google could be in serious danger as a company for not doing the same. Also consider in the gaming industry with the prevalence of classic game re-releases and how popular those are. It would seem to me there is a large consumer base that have a strong desire for software and hardware to last them a long time, perhaps even decades. Ignore that consumer base at your own peril, Google and other tech companies.

Bottom line, the Nexus 9 is still fair hardware, and you’ll likely get a lot of life out of it yet, but beware…Alphabet/Google is clearly sending the message that anything with their branding isn’t long for this world. Caveat emptor. Buyer beware.

Carpe lucem!