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There Really Might Be a Google Phone. No Seriously!

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[qi:gigaom_icon_google-android] We’ve gone back and forth on the existence of a Google phone for a long time now. In the beginning, there was a talk of a Google Phone that turned out to be Android, Google’s mobile operating system targeting handset makers such as HTC, Motorola and Samsung. Now there is word that Google might actually be looking to make its own handset. Again! This comes from Ashok Kumar, a veteran technology analyst with Northeast Securities. In a note to his clients, Kumar notes that “Google is expected to launch a self branded -smartphone by year end followed by –netbook (sic) early next year.”

According to Kumar, Google will embed the same iteration of Android as the one currently being used in the Motorola Droid and the device will be based on Qualcomm baseband chips. Google will also introduce its own branded netbook, again embedding Qualcomm Snapdragon, early next year. Acer, one of the largest PC makers in the world, recently said that it would be making an Android-based smartphone and a netbook.

About six months ago, I heard that Google had been extremely conflicted over its desire to make a Google phone. I’ve spoken to some of my sources, who have indicated that Google wants to do its own phone in order to better integrate its services. But at the same time it didn’t want to tee off its partners.

It would be a very curious move for Google, considering that Android is finally building up the momentum it needs to take on more established rivals such as RIM, Nokia (s NOK) and Apple. The decision to make its own branded device would certainly sow seeds of dissension in the Android camp. Already there are fears of too many flavors of Android causing confusion in the market. The handset makers who are betting the farm on Android, Motorola (s MOT) for instance, must feel double-crossed.

We called Google’s spokespeople to ask about the company’s plans and got this response: “Unfortunately, we do not comment on market rumor or speculation.” My view is that even if Google makes this device, success isn’t assured. Google, for all its success in online advertising and search, has yet to prove that it can build a product-centric infrastructure like, say, Microsoft (s MSFT) and Apple. Google, in fact, would be fighting its own corporate structure.

25 Responses to “There Really Might Be a Google Phone. No Seriously!”

  1. Considering that Andy Rubin – who created Danger and the Sidekick – is the Director of Mobile Platforms at Google i’ve been surprised they have not put out a device already. This device did have a “Jobs-ian” focus on the customer and had a huge following (despite limited to T-Mobile, and now losing user’s data) It may be a better idea to influence andorid adopters – such as MOT – than to compete with them as Mark S. points out. It would be impossible to convince some that GOOG does not have special hooks back in their cloud that provide enhanced services to users of their phone rather than the average Android device.

  2. Justa Notherguy

    I don’t believe it. My money says, this ‘Google Phone’ rumor is most likely a contrivance – perhaps a trial balloon, perhaps wishful thinking, or perhaps a simple misunderstanding. Recall when similar rumors preceded the G1?

    Same goes for the alleged netbook project. Google have previously announced they were working with a hardware partner on something along those lines. I’d need to see compelling evidence before I could believe this collaborative effort (with Google as consultant/OS provider) has morphed into a ‘Google Book’ sub-contract deal.

  3. more interesting than hardware would be for Google to establish an MVNO SIM card offering. it could contain Google Voice as its core offering total integration on every handset without requiring any software on the phone.

  4. Google making its own phone is a terrible idea. I love Google for all their functionalities but they have terrible visual designers. Everything they make looks less elegant and terrible compared to their competition. Android OS looks like crap visually even in v2.0.

    G1 – A phone that Google helped design = beyond terrible
    Droid – A phone Google is influencing the design also (as stated by BGR) went from looking good in the early builds to rather much uglier at the end.

    Google please hire better visual designers before even trying to make a phone.

    • Justa Notherguy


      > I love Google for all their functionalities but they have terrible visual designers.

      That would be an interesting observation if we had any confirmation as to Google’s input viz a particular device.

      Who says Google have involved themselves in _any_ phone’s external appearance? Find us a quote and post a link, Ok? Meanwhile, let’s recall that these folks have a famously minimalistic website…one which is often lauded for exactly that quality. On the other hand, Motorola can be hit-or-miss. Ever seen a ROKR? And, until recently, HTC (maker of the G1) have no particular record of stylistic flair in hardware design.

      > Everything they make looks less elegant and terrible compared to their
      > competition. Android OS looks like crap visually even in v2.0.

      I disagree. Anybody who announces that _Android_ ‘looks like crap’ hasn’t spent a few days with an unskinned WinMo 6.1 phone or – God help you – one of those 1st gen. Blackberry Storm things. :P Meanwhile, so long as we limit ourselves to appearance (and, mainly, appearance of the base-level system screens rather than the hand-set’s shell), I’m not exactly bowled over by the iPhone’s approach, either.

      Laugh if you want, but ask around; many iPhone owners feel the same way. That inflexible, ‘checkerboard’ home-screen is not what convinced them to buy and a good many find themselves bored to tears, after a couple years of looking at the dopey thing. And, hey – how much difference is there between system settings on Android vs iPhone? Pull up some screenshots and check them side-by-side.

  5. Om,

    I think that you hit the nail on the head on two points. One, Google’s culture is heavily decentralized, which explains why you don’t see Google’s family of products interconnected in a value added fashion (e.g., Wave should be a no brainer to integrate with News, YouTube, Maps, Blogger, Calendar, Documents and Sites).

    Arguably, it explains the curious decision to come out with two OS’s (Android, Chrome) when they have yet to perfect one. Culturally, they lack the Jobs-ian mindset to say 1+1=3, focusing instead on a loosely coupled approach to products.

    Two is that there is no better way to undermine your open ecosystem “arms dealer” dealer positioning than by competing against the same OEMs (and potentially, Carriers) that you are hoping to get to adopt your platform.

    That said, I am sure they understand that winning – beating, outflanking Apple – requires an integrated hardware, software, service and tools platform that is highest common divisor versus lowest common denominator oriented, and see a window to winning (or trying to).

    That’s why I’ve thought from the get go that all of the blather about the ‘inevitably’ of Android shows a serious lack of understanding about just how hard it is to make a hardware/software/service/tools platform play truly successful.


  6. I hope not. I’ve been waiting so long for a Google phone. The G1 wasn’t good enough to dedicate 2 years to. The MyTouch looked a lot better, but wait the HTC Hero is around the corner and Google Voice portability, too? Oh, here comes Droid – it looks awesome! But wait there’s more, now a “Google” Google phone? At least with the iPhone I know to expect a newish version around summer time… I am not dealing very well with this Android onslaught.

  7. if it does happen, i hope they out-innovate iPhone with a 2nd front facing camera, and Google Voice (or GMail) video chat out of the box. Your ad here says “Over 60% of the world’s top brands have gone Google”. Why not aim to simplify the statement with “Over 60% of the world have gone Google” by also launching a complete Google Docs mobile. If Win 7 mobile gets office right, it will make an interesting head to head imho. lastly, i hope these Google devices are all base priced models designed to kick Android and all Google apps into the mainstream, let Motorola, Samsung, etc bring us the Android toys we want and business machines we’ll need. ok, 4G i am twiddling my thumbs for you =)

  8. “Google, in fact, would be fighting its own corporate structure.”

    If that was the case, you wouldn’t have seen Gmail, Orkut, Chrome, Chrome OS and the many other non-search related products.

    • yup, why fixate on product centric strategy.
      Android will be dominating mobile system in a couple of years time. Google don’t need to get in the rat race of hardware.

      • Google needs to make hardware. Otherwise we won’t see $100 Android and Google Chrome pocket sized and laptop sized products.

        Also, Google can embed a White Spaces modem in those devices as soon as the FCC gives them the green light, which basically means free unlimited wireless broadband for all.

        Building a global White Spaces network is cheap, all they need to do is partner with FON to build a $20 White Spaces enabled router that all consumers will install at home on their home broadband or just connected to the electricity to function only as a mesh forwarder, and Google just needs to setup a few Base stations per city connected to their dark fiber, and all the wireless broadband Internet is spread around the whole city using the 700mhz spectrum of white spaces and Mesh networking between all the routers.