Today I saw a report of Google’s new Nexus 7 tablet. It looked great and since I will be in the US later this month I thought I would order one. Unfortunately I am in Israel and Google knows it. This is called “Geolocation”, a fully supported feature of the World Wide Web. When you connect to a web site, the site can request the physical location from which you are connecting. The location might be derived from your Internet Protocol (IP) address, the wireless hotspot you are using, cell phone towers (if you are using GPRS) and/or a GPS receiver. Google collected a lot of the information used for Geolocation using its Street View cars and continues to collect location information from Android phones.
Please don’t misunderstand, geolocation can be great. Knowing the user’s location can be used to prioritize search responses to local businesses or to provide pages in the user’s local language automatically as well as other innovative applications. You might have noticed that when you first connect to Google from an account in Israel, you are redirected to the Hebrew version of Google (google.co.il) even if you specify google.com. But wisely, Google provides an easy way to work around this by using an address of google.com/ncr. The “ncr” means “No Country Redirect” and will force the connection to google.com.
On the other hand, it appears that Google has not considered the possibility that there might be customers for the Nexus 7 who are currently outside its approved distribution area. If you go to Google’s site for ordering a Nexus 7 from a host in Israel you are told that “Sorry! Devices on Google Play is not available in your country yet.” (Sic) But what if you want to order a device for delivery in the US or another country in which “Devices on Google Play” are available? You would think that Google might have considered that these devices could be ordered for pick up in the US, or as a gift for someone living in the US.
The lesson here is that when you decide to impose a limit on a business process, consider the possibility that it will disappoint a valid customer. In this case, the shipping address should be limited, not the location from which the order is placed. I can’t see why an order placed from Israel with a US credit card, for delivery in the US, should be treated any differently than the same order placed by someone physically in the US. A reasonable approach would be for Google to warn customers from unsupported locations that they will not be able to place an order for delivery to their location, but with the option of placing an order for delivery to an allowed location.