Google fumbles Nexus 7 pre-orders

Google's Nexus 7 Android tablet seems to be a hit given the number of favorable reviews I've seen. I'd love to offer my opinion but I don't have mine yet. And I'm not alone.

Google started taking pre-orders for the Nexus 7 on June 27th, at essentially the same moment that they were showing it off on stage at Google I/O for the first time. The keynote was still on-going when I placed my pre-order for a 16 GB Nexus 7 and a case. At the time all we got for a release day was "mid-July."

And to be fair, this is still "mid-July" so the Nexus 7 isn't late, but it's a little frustrating that the device is available in retail locations right now, while many of the devoted fans who pre-ordered before anyone had read a review or had any significant hands-on time with the device are still waiting.

Admittedly this is a "first world problem" and I'm sure the delay will be quickly forgotten once we get our well-fed privileged hands on our tablets, but Google needs to do better if it's going to remain in the physical goods business.

It isn't just that the fastest, cheapest way to get a Nexus 7, it turns out, was to go to a Gamestop video game store and pre-order one (no shipping and they were released on Friday the 13th). It's that those of us who pre-ordered via Google were being kept in the semi-dark for too long (Google eventually issued a blanket statement saying all US and Australia preorders are scheduled to ship by today, July 17th).

When I checked the status of my order last Friday (as friends were taunting me with their Gamestop-purchased Nexus 7s!) it said "Complete" and that it was placed on June 27, 2012, but there was no indication of exactly when it was going to ship. If I knew the order wasn't going to ship for a few days I would've hit a retail shop and bought a Nexus 7, but I didn't want to come home from the store only to find my order had shipped.

It's really hard not to compare this transaction with the purchase of my Amazon Kindle Fire. Amazon's system clearly tracked my order from day 1 until the minute the hardware was in my hands. I never had to wonder what was going on.

It's also really hard to understand what method Google has used in fulfilling pre-orders. I've been talking to my fellow Android enthusiasts and we've been unable to discern a pattern. People who pre-ordered days after I did already have their tablets in-hand. We wondered if it had to do with which model (8GB or 16GB) was ordered, but it seems not. Were they working down the list alphabetically? They don't seem to be. There seems to be no pattern to who has received their tablet and who hasn't.

There is good news, for me at least. Last night at 8:45 I received an email saying my order had shipped, so in my case Google made it's "ship by July 17th" promise and in fact it upgraded me to next day delivery for free. So the company is trying, at least.

Hopefully by the time Google launches its next hardware they will have polished their pre-order process. Or maybe they should just stick to selling through retail partners rather than trying to undertake shipping physical goods to impatient geeks.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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