Google would be wrong to abandon Plus or Nexus

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If you believe the rumors -- and I rarely do, unsubstantiated -- Google+ and Nexus are over. Gossipers claim the social network will lose identity and prominence, while the Nexus 6 smartphone is no more than dust in the wind. Who is writing the script here? George R. R. Martin? Because the Google killing-spree has a "Game of Thrones" (aka Song of Ice and Fire) feel to it -- you don't know which product will be killed next. For sure, the death count is mighty since Larry Page's return as CEO three years ago.

But Google will make a huge mistake if it backs off Plus, or worse, puts Nexus to the sword. These assets' value is immeasurable. Enthusiasts are any company's best marketers, and these products command large and vocal fan bases. Enthusiasts are crucial to Google gaining and maintaining brand charm, particularly as government overlords answer competitor complaints: "Antitrust! Antitrust!" Fans aren't just good marketers, they are foot soldiers rallying against invaders, like European or U.S. trustbusters.

Apple is the clearest example of enthusiasts' influence. Mac fanboys are legendary for their cult-like devotion, eagerness to evangelize new converts, and relentless attacks against critics. iPhone idolaters share similar, but in my experience nowhere as extreme, adoration. The Android Army is vocally devote, too. Fans delight in Nexus devices and integrated Google+ and other cloud services benefits. Granted, Google Play Edition devices give them pure Android, unlocked, but lack the cache or affordability that Nexus brings.

Spend even a few minutes on Google+ or any Nexus news site or forum, and fanboyism is evident. You see an engaged community of tinkerers that relishes the personalization options that Google provides and which members brandish their superiority over what they view as the Apple lambs -- led to slaughter on the altar Steve Jobs created. There is one way -- that which Apple commands -- or so say snickering Android fans. By contrast, they are free to think and choose for themselves.

Plus and Nexus command brand awareness and value that Google shouldn't abandon -- or with respect to shareholders -- carelessly squander. I can understand that from the bean counter's viewpoint, both brands are worthless because they don't generate core capital. It's not like Google+ reaps revenue from mountains of banner ads or search keywords. Perhaps. But 400 million or so Google Accounts or G+ users appearing in third-party ads are among assets worth bean-counting.

Thirteen years ago tomorrow, Apple opened its first retail store in McLean, Va. I was there for the opening and Jobs' press gala four days earlier. Recession gripped the country, Apple had reported several quarterly losses, and Gateway prepared to shutter all of its retail shops. No sensible bean counter would approve of such crazy concept as Apple Store. But Jobs' saw in the stores not a way to make money but to evangelize the Apple lifestyle.

Today, the retail shops are profitable, promote the Apple Way, and provide immeasurable customer service from the Genius Bar. Plus and Nexus help demarcate what is the Google lifestyle and engage enthusiasts -- as previously expressed any company's best marketers.

Think about the Google products that so loudly beat fanboys' drum. Docs? Gmail? Search? These are all utilities and little more. YouTube fits, providing a platform that enables people to meaningfully build their own audiences -- fans. Android and Nexus, supported by Google+ and related services like Hangouts and Google Now, bang the drum.

I just can't believe that Larry Page and his lieutenants would be so stupid as to squander something so valuable. But if the rumors are true, Google would be wrong to abandon Plus or Nexus.

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