143 Comments

Summary:

The Observer of London is reporting that Google might be working with HTC and mobile/telecom giant Orange to build a Google Mobile Phone, which could possibly have Google software inside the device, and would be able to do many of the web tasks smartly. The device, […]

The Observer of London is reporting that Google might be working with HTC and mobile/telecom giant Orange to build a Google Mobile Phone, which could possibly have Google software inside the device, and would be able to do many of the web tasks smartly. The device, article speculates, could go on sale in 2008. (Of course, we would all have forgotten by then… if it doesn’t happen.) Orange and Google, both declined to comment.

Their plans centre on a branded Google phone, which would probably also carry Orange’s logo. The device would not be revolutionary: manufactured by HTC, a Taiwanese firm specialising in smart phones and Personal Data Assistants (PDAs), it might have a screen similar to a video iPod. But it would have built-in Google software which would dramatically improve on the slow and cumbersome experience of surfing the web from a mobile handset.


It would be interesting to see if this comes to fruition. Google, in recent months has become increasingly aggressive about its mobile ambitions, and is pushing into the carrier space, though there have been some snags.

Google Phone, if you think about it is a reasonable speculation. Google has been aggressive in developing location based services, has amp-ed up its local search and mapping services. In addition, it has also been mobilizing its applications such as GTalk and GMail. YouTube, the video arm of Google, is beginning to embrace the mobile ecosystem.

Normally, one would not spend too much energy on this bit of news. However, presence of Andy Rubin on Google campus gives us a reason to pause.

Who is Rubin? He was one of the co-founders of Danger, the company that makes the Sidekick devices. He sold his last company, Android to Google for an undisclosed amount of money, and he has been holed up in Mountain View, California campus of Google, doing something.

No one knows what, but since Android was focusing on mobile, it is safe to assume that he just might be involved in Android. Danger, as you might know has become a multimillion dollar business based off the “compress web and take it mobile” technology developed by Rubin and others. Businessweek had reported that Android was working on a cell phone operating system.

One source familiar with the company says Android had at one point been working on a software operating system for cell phones. …. In a 2003 interview with BusinessWeek, just two months before incorporating Android, Rubin said there was tremendous potential in developing smarter mobile devices that are more aware of its owner’s location and preferences. “If people are smart, that information starts getting aggregated into consumer products,” said Rubin.

For Orange, this could be a valuable asset in its triple play ambitions. The company owns broadband businesses across Europe, and has access to 3G networks, and is owned by France Telecom. It could use Google’s web expertise to take on its rivals, by offering web-mobile hybrid phones, and at the same time get a slice of mobile advertising revenues. I know, sounds far fetched, but not out of the real of possiblity.

Your thoughts?

By Om Malik

You're subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

Related stories

  1. the writing is on the wall. goog wants to own you and your communications end to end and it makes perfect sense for them. why? efficiency and control. if they own the device you use(phone, pc, whatever they give you), the transport and transit networks your data rides on the machines where your http request was directed(gmail, chat, webpage, hosted app, search, whatever) and voila;

    google owns you and your ability to interact with almost everything and everyone except those things and/or people for which you have first person contact.

    free connectivity sounds great when i use my definition of ‘free’: one way exchange of good or services where one person or group is the beneficiary. nothing is free and google is a business that generates billions in revenue and subsequent profit. if giving away anything would bring harm to google or its shareholders by hurting the bootom line, it won’t happen.

    Om, Whatcha thinking? Are these the early signs of the makings of another opportunity to rollup the small wifi isp’s similar to what Verio did to local ISPs in the 90′s?

    Share
  2. Jean-Louis Seguineau Sunday, December 17, 2006

    Not to forget that Fance Telecom is one of the main investors behind Jabber Inc. and Orange is already running XMPP servers…

    Anti Skype move ;)

    Share
  3. A google phone? Wouldn’t this only mean a device that scraps the operator branded mobile internet in favour for the Google search and application or mail protocol?
    I don’t think its unrealistic – but I think that “our expectations” might be bigger than the “real” thing.

    Share
  4. The slow and cumbersome experience of browsing the web from a mobile handset is not going to be solved by Google, no matter how good their software may be. The issue is ergonomics – today’s web is not designed for tiny screens, even good tiny screens like the video iPod.

    Most websites contain all kinds of content which is not scalable or lends itself to being rendered on a mobile phone’s screen. Even using PDAs with 640×480 screen resolution is not very comfortable.

    Why don’t we just abandon the pretense that mobile phones have to be able to browse the web like a desktop, and limit ourselves to what most people today are doing, which is check mobile-designed sites, or maybe read a blog or two? Email and IM are great on a mobile though, maybe they could do something on that front.

    Share
    1. i think HTC is the best

      Share
  5. HTC is also the manufacturer of SoftBank’s (JP) new smart phone, X01HT.

    Share
  6. I have just landed in Moscow and I’m reading this catching up on my Techmeme. On my mobile phone. Where Google already rules: Gmail, local, search. What is missing now is docs amd a ten times longer battery life. If they could pull that off I would switch in an instant.

    Share
  7. Apples and oranges. It’s not comparable to a iPhone, hardware and software designed from the ground up. It would just be a business cross-promotional tie-up along the lines of Yahoo Japan and Softbank Mobile.

    Share
  8. Sounds more than reasonable, if we remember that Windows for Mobile was predicted to reach ~50% of smart phones market share around 2008-2009.
    MS will likely integrate their live search feature to the OS, so google might also be preparing itself to a possible emerging search battlefield.

    One where google has less advantage than MS at the mo…

    Share
  9. Google already rules on mobile.
    .Google Maps (although missing gps link..)
    .Gmail (through web interface or midlet)
    .Google Reader
    .Google itself (you know.. the search engine!)

    But there is a lot of room for improvement. For instance a carrier subscription with unlimited data transfer, and preinstalled Google applications. This would immediately take the mobile world by storm.

    But I doubt that companies like France Telecom have the vision it takes for it. Historically, they’ve never chosen to compete, and much of their effort goes into slowing down tech acceptance (and keep high prices…)

    It was the case with RTC modem access to the internet, with ADSL etc..
    The bulk of Orange revenues comes from uninformed customers who get basic landline sercvice from “the historic phone operator” (france telecom) and who end up paying pay twice the price for everything else.

    Oh… the joy of captive customers.. it sure does not take its root in innovation! :)

    Share
  10. I think the writing has been on the wall for a GPhone for sometime now. I wrote about it back a year or so ago when Google first released Gtalk on the open Jabber platform.

    My guess was that our mobile phone numbers will soon become to look like emailaddress@gmail.com, and our email contacts will sync with our email contacts eventually.

    My initial estimate was that they would just release a purely wifi phone, but perhaps they will partner with a carrier to cover both wifi and cell until wifi becomes a bit more ubiquitous.

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post