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Summary:

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Google Phone! And no, I don’t mean all those Android-powered devices, but instead a Google-branded phone that’s made by an original equipment maker. The company has started giving away these devices to its employees, who started tweeting about it last […]

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Google Phone! And no, I don’t mean all those Android-powered devices, but instead a Google-branded phone that’s made by an original equipment maker. The company has started giving away these devices to its employees, who started tweeting about it last night, and it had to make an announcement this morning. In a blog post on the Android Blog, Mario Queiroz, vice president, Product Management writes:

We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe. This means they get to test out a new technology and help improve it. Unfortunately, because dogfooding is a process exclusively for Google employees, we cannot share specific product details. We hope to share more after our dogfood diet.

Amazing, crazy, why? Those were the first things that ran through my mind when I read that Google is actually making a device. This is very much a page out of Microsoft’s playbook. Microsoft makes specification designs, and Google seems to be doing just that. Of course, just as Microsoft and its Zune came along to compete with all those Play4Sure MP3 players, Google can make its own hardware and thus compete with the same folks who are betting the farm on Android.

The company says it’s doing this for its employees, but why shouldn’t we believe it will start selling it to consumers? After all, Google has the brand and the means to do that. If I were Motorola, then I wouldn’t be happy, because now I’m going to be competing with a Google-branded device. I need to talk to Google about the rationale of this decision before passing judgment. I’ve fired off emails to Motorola and other Android supporters.

Reading between the lines, Google’s decision to release a device shows it’s worried about the fear of fragmentation of the Android ecosystem that we’ve often talked about. By putting its stake in the ground, the company is hoping it doesn’t make the mistake that Microsoft made by dragging its feet in releasing Zune and ceding the market to Apple’s iPod. The iPhone, despite the issues with AT&T’s pokey 3G network, as eloquently pointed out by Verizon in its ads, continues to sell like a monster. Google doesn’t have much time and needs to respond fast.

On the plus side of the news — maybe you can return those Droids now that Time magazine has put its hex on the device.

  1. Expect the Google Phone to launch with RETAILER partners, not carriers. It will also be a GSM based phone – thus more attractive world wide – and less competitive to Android OS hardware makers in the CDMA space… I am hearing from people in the space who have used it, that it truly is an Iphone killer …regardless anything that brings a second ‘real’ competitor into the space is a good thing …even for Iphon users.

    http://twitter.com/A_F

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    1. Agreed. That is what it looks like – GSM and via retail. It is going to be an amazing turn of events. iPhone killer…. how many have come along… let’s count :-)

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      1. Well with no carrier subsidizing, one has to wonder what this will retail for?

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    2. Seems like Google will be selling this lil bad boy. Tmobile will be supporting the launch of this? http://bit.ly/63n3uX

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  2. I’d hate to be in charge of Motorola’s Droid inventory this morning! It seems that Google has given up on its partners and is trying to be the iPhone’s Grinch this Christmas.

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    1. Tim… Grinch is here. I loved your tweet by the way :-)

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    2. Google’s phone will be GSM and Verizon is CDMA with 90M customers. I think the Droid will be OK because we know that their customers will stick with CDMA instead of the alternative.

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      1. Really? You think US consumers have a preference for CDMA over GSM?

        I think they don’t have a clue what those acronyms stand for…if they can even identify them as cellular technologies.

        Or do you just mean they will stick with Verizon?

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  3. Om,like everyone else here, I look forward to a real iKiller. However, I don’t think this is the right way to do it. Not that I’m anywhere near as smart as the collective and money-hungry Google Brain, but they should stick to improving Android and giving it away for free, not competing with those who are in bed with them now on the hardware side. What they should be focused on is unifying Android and Chrome OS and competing against the iPod Touch by giving it true VOIP capability.

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    1. on Android Gizmo5.com have Laucned a Guava and Latest release is fring from fring world in Market

      Both have Really nice VoIP Interface

      fring can connect Google Talk Skype, Gizmo and any SIP based Service.

      Means Google Surely have true VoIP Interface.

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  4. For the mass consumer market, think about what having a “nearly” free phone with near-zero monthly operational costs will result in?

    Who cares about “designer apps,” give me free or cheap any day.

    Free GPS voice nav, free’ish VOIP and SMS(Gizmo5), Google Talk/Voice and WAVE; combined with QR Tag and barcode reader (ultimate ad platform; and, remember, Goog just shipped 100,000 Tags out last week)…

    It will be as essential to the mainstream’s daily lives as Google/Search has become. It will be the most targeted advertising platform in the world, in your pocket. And, you will NEVER leave, since you’ll never understand why it costs $50/month/phone for other services; plus paid apps…

    Scary? Sure. But, hey, If a family of four can have 4 smart phones with a monthly cost of under $50. Probably closer to $25? Less? And, the “information” (ads) you receive are relevant to you?

    Nearly-free smart-phone mobile changes everything. It’s probably Google’s biggest play since they first launched (it will make them money, compared to YouTube). And, who’s going to compete against them?

    This does create a range of opportunities for advertising/content/technology folks to step in with some fascinating, entirely new, mobile ad/brand experiences, provided they are Android/XMPP/Voice-XML friendly.

    Google wins when they put the consumer-first and damn the Industry as a whole. I think they win, big time, here. Thankfully, I’m not an iPhone/App Developer (a job that will cease to exist within 2-3 years?).

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    1. With the saturation of iPhones in the market, I would highly doubt that the handset will disappear within your time frame. There are too many people jumping on board and loving their experience and those people hate to learn new stuff…sad but fact.

      I am not completely sold that Google will subsidize the phone with ads but I have been wrong in the past. Overall a solid idea but again, I feel that people are so scared of what Google does to scrape information and therefore would not be on board with a Phone that is reading their text messages. People are too overly secretive and they have some benign sense that justifies the action, it is tre bizarre.

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      1. iPhone saturation in the US is at what? 4-6% with it estimated to cap at 10% (strangely in line with Apple computers v. PCs). That still leaves 90% of the market (where the current players, like Nokia and Motorola are self destructing without any outside help).

        All phones and carriers “read” your text messages now; then they delete after 4-10 days. The difference with Google? It may link GPS data or other data it acquires to your SMS patterns and (possibly) eek some NLP processing into the mix to push more targeted ads/info at you. If anyone thinks that any non-encrypted communication is “safe,” they are fooling themselves.

        But, my main point is that cheap/near-free is going to win. People will overlook their own best interests if offered a “deal.” That’s just the kind of Country/culture we are. And, Google/Phone (with it’s plethora of shared services) at a price point (monthly service mainly) that is a fraction of everyone else?

        It is an ad-engine in every pocket and they can afford to put it there very very inexpensively.

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    2. Sam, very little of what you mention says “mass consumer” to me, except for “near free” which I don’t think is achievable. You sound like an overexcited geek trying to pack as many buzzwords as possible into a single sentence:

      “This does create a range of opportunities for advertising/content/technology folks to step in with some fascinating, entirely new, mobile ad/brand experiences, provided they are Android/XMPP/Voice-XML friendly.”

      Blah, blah, blah — what about your pontificating sounds consumer-first and ready for mass adoption by the average consumer.

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    3. Sam – you are so right on! The carriers who want to flood us with advertising in addition to paying for usage will have to duck for cover as I doubt anyone will want to pay for poor service, ads and lack of privacy.

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    4. Sam

      With all due respect…WTF?

      Google cannot offer a phone for free or near free. Google cannot offer phone service for free or near free. There is no Santa Claus, either, so stop dreaming of getting something just because you wish for it.

      Google makes money off ads. Correct. They can subsidize devices or service with ads. Also true. They could even get revenue shares in the future by steering people towards Brick and Mortar businesses. But to be a profitable company, the ad revenue needs to exceed the subsidy. In offering a top-flight smartphone for free, Google would have a ~$500 subsidy to recoup. That’s a @#$@ of a lot of ads.

      Google is a big success on the web because they use relatively cheap processors and storage, and serve billions of page views and ads. Each page view, on average, has a tremendously low cost to provide, and also a small revenue component. By keeping the costs so low, and the ad revenue slightly higher, in volume the ads drive a fantastically profitable operation.

      You’ll note that Google does not pay for your PC in the above-mentioned successful model. You’ll not that Google does not pay for your ISP connection in that model either. Together, this makes the model highly scalable, in that they can serve millions of users with the same infrastructure and negligible marginal costs. If Google needed to supply each user with a $500 marginal cost device…um…do you think that might affect a high-volume business?

      Now, while in the current web world, Google does not provide your ISP service, you propose they will do so for cellular service, but at a much cheaper rate. How do you suggest Google provide a near-free cellular service without any spectrum, nor any cellular infrastructure assets in any country? To have any impact on cellular rates, for now at least, in each nation Google would need to become an MVNO, or partner with an existing carrier as a channel. In either model, Google would have little ability to reduce market subscription rates. No carrier will slash market prices at Google’s behest, and as an MVNO Google could subsidize calling plans, but the underlying network operator will still charge standard wholesale rates? Can Google recoup $50 a month of subscription subsidies with their ads? Every month? From every user? And can they do that at the same time as they need to recoup the $500 subsidy for the device?!!

      So, yeah, Google can alter the playing field if they so choose, and in significant ways. But not the way you’re expecting, and certainly not to that extent.

      Derek Kerton
      http://www.kertongroup.com

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  5. Here is VoIP for Google Android for Gizmo5.

    http://gizmo5.com/guava.html?loc=guava

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  6. Contrary to Diablo above, I really would care less how much it costs without the subsidy. Phones, especially the iPhone, Android, WebOS kin have come so close to mobile computers that I would be willing to drop 200-800$ on a device if I knew I had a choice of networks. I have never been psyched about being married to a single carrier and think that overall it is very monopolistic (a word Google severely dislikes).

    Say we had to pay 550 for this gPhone and with Google’s release cycle you could opt to have experimental builds of the OS on the phone with exciting, upcoming features. I would definitely be down for this and would pony the money up immediately. Kudos go to Google for this move.

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  7. While the GSM + retail option cannot be completely ruled out, despite the number of troubled handset makers that it antagonizes, I would be quite intrigued if this is a precursor for a mass-market launch shortly…The timing seems to be too early for such a move…Android can by no means be classified as a strong success, and Google is still trying to drum up support for devices on that platform…And again, product sales are a wholly different beast compared to selling text ads on search engines ;-)

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  8. Mario didn’t say a word about a Google phone. This is an HTC Passion fun running an internal alpha version of Android 2.1 (instead of the about-to-be-release 2.01). Why make a story out of that?
    Google did this twice before: they handed out an unlocked dev version of the G1 HTC Dream exactly a year ago to employees and then the Google Ion/HTC Magic at Google i/o to developers.
    There’s no story here.

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  9. For all the people who think Google shouldn’t compete with its current partners: Come on, guys! Look at the bigger tech picture here. Competition is good. Innovation should not be sacrificed to protect partnerships. Remember in the brave new tech world, there are no friends or enemies. Just frenemies.

    PLUS, if this phone is really good, then the manufacturer will make a lot of money. Other phone manufacturers will be forced to innovate as well. Good for the consumers.

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  10. To say this is “the” Google Phone and that it precurses a product launch is absurb. I am sure Apple hands out pre-production iPhone units to employees all the time for testing and feature investigations, etc. The difference is, Apple employees aren’t stupid enough to go tweeting about it, and Apple as a company forbids such activity.

    Google’s corporate culture, on the other hand, apparently encourages internal company matters to be blasted throughout the interwebs. How idiotic is that?

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