It’s been a longstanding tradition that things announced at the beginning of the calendar year pertaining to the realm of electronics are unveiled at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show, which is held in Las Vegas, in the month of January.

A couple of years ago, Steve Jobs decided to announce products before CES and caused quite a stir, because at that time, they also avoided the MacWorld conference, which was a double whammy. It paid off though, because everyone did twice the talking; Apple not attending but announcing such great products.

Google is attempting to do the same thing this year, as it will be announcing the new Android phone, on January 5, on its home turf, and not Las Vegas.

From ComputerWorld we get a few more hows and whys –

Apparently, Google CEO Eric Schmidt took some pages from the Apple playbook when he departed the company’s board earlier this year. On Tuesday, the search giant sent out invitations to members of the press for an event at Google’s Mountain View, Calif. campus on Jan. 5; All Things D has posted a copy of the invitation.

The event, which is focused around Google’s Android mobile platform, is invitation-only and will be comprised of a press conference and presentation, Q&A session, and demonstrations. (Plus, the lucky attendees get to snag themselves a delicious Google lunch.)

Of course, had Apple not pulled out of this year’s Macworld Expo, January 5th likely would have been the day of the company’s traditional keynote. However, in part spurred by Apple’s departure, Macworld Expo takes place this year in February.

As it is, Google’s event also falls just prior to this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which beings on January 7th. As All Things D’s John Paczkowski points out, CES was famously upstaged by Jobs’s Macworld keynote in 2007, which saw the unveiling of the iPhone. (Believe me, as someone who was at CES 2007, it was the only thing anybody was talking about.) Google has a chance to preempt the entire consumer electronics industry in one fell swoop.

Now the announcement doesn’t say specifically that a phone is the subject, but all the industry wags agree that the Android phone is what it must be, for nothing else would be such an incredibly big deal.

What exactly Google will announce at its event is already the subject of much discussion. The leading contender is an Android phone under the Google brand, dubbed the Nexus One. The question remains, however, exactly how the Nexus One will be differentiated from its predecessors, like the G1 and Motorola Droid–especially since reports and FCC filings seem to say that phone manufacturer HTC will be actually building the device.

Speculation mainly revolves, then, around the Nexus One’s business model, with rumors claiming it will be an unlocked phone sold directly to consumers, with the tacit support of T-Mobile. Such a move could conceivably open up the Nexus One to users not looking for a two-year contract, potentially even providing an Android-flavored answer to the iPod touch.

At least the Nexus One will provide a worthy distraction to divert pundits and professional speculators from their current incessant noise-making about the Apple tablet.

If this new phone is offered as an unlocked device, and without ties to a service provider, it will show that Google is very interested in giving its customers freedom, even to the point of its own bottom line, because we all know that phones sold up front without service provider subsidy are not going to sell as well as others at first simply because of up front cost. This is especially true at the first of the year, when many are dreading the excess spending of the just exited holiday season.

If the model catches on, it will be a strong indicator that the phone is surviving on its own merit, and might be able to change the way cell phones are marketed, perhaps a little revolution in January.

The only thing that could be better is if the phone was offered in two flavors, not by color, not by carrier, but by technology – GSM and CDMA. Such a departure would be tremendous, but might not currently be possible, as Verizon and Sprint are very much into having phones locked to their networks. Ostensibly the reason is because it allows them to keep an eye on quality, but they are fooling no one, it is allowing them to keep prices and people in line. (With Sprint, a phone not originally designed for their network will not work, because Sprint keeps a whitelist of phones made for them, and if your phone is not on the list, you might as well be trying to hook up a carrot to their network.)

This is understandable if you are a part of the miserable Sprint network, because you certainly don’t want people freely being able to move away from your less than stellar network and customer service, but for Verizon, it shows the company’s greed, as the network service speaks for itself, so should the restrictions be erased, the equilibrium would change almost immediately even further to the side of Verizon.

Imagine what it would be like if the customer had choice of phone, and carrier. Carriers imagine that day as coinciding with the end of the world as most of us imagine it.



Time to wake up…

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