A week of gPhone daydreams

gPhone conceptual design

No sooner had the Great Pumpkin passed than the Wall Street Journal fires up speculation about the “any day now” gPhone announcement.

The rumors cluster around three sets of ideas:

1. Google is interested in developing an ad-based cell phone market place, where the phone and/or usage would be subsidized by ads. “Hi, this is your Mother speaking,” … “We pause this phone call for a short message from our sponsor …”, … “Did you forget your Dad’s birthday again ?” The scenario is interesting, but faces interesting marketing challenges.

2. Google is interested in developing a unix based smart phone architecture and operating system through which it could place local and/or otherwise smart ads. This would be partly a general keitai device, with access to mapping services, etc. iMode for gOogle. The software, and an SDK would be open sourced and free for cell phone manufacturers. Again an interesting scenario, especially with the rapidity with which Chinese manufacturers were able to demonstrate prototypes of iPhone clones. The catch here is that most cell phone companies are loath to allow users to choose their own devices, at least in the United States. Of course, gOogle maybe thinking globally, with an eye to developing Google.cn and Google.in.

3. Google is interested in producing services that run on regular cellphones. That is already partially true – Google Mobile services supports the google homepage, google search. gmail, … google.com/mobile … – which run nicely enough on some devices. Other devices, well. In this scenario, google would try to urge regular vendors and networks to be more google friendly, perhaps offering to share revenues. The bit of light in this scenario is “fear of iPhone.” Everyone (ha!) is afraid of being left behind the technology shift, with the phone companies going the way of the recording industry.

4. Google is interested in becoming a communications carrier. This is the scenario that comes out of google’s earlier efforts to get the FCC to require an “open access” policy for the 700 Mhz spectrum with the promise that it would thereby enter the bidding for spectrum. As far fetched as this seems, Google is a very fat Cash Cow, so this is something it could afford to do. Or, even less far fetched, something it could encourage – it could buy the spectrum, but allow 3rd parties to franchise the services, perhaps offering support in interesting, money making rules.

Or, all of the above. Which is what I expect to eventually happen. In any case, if the one concrete item in the rumors is true … that an announcement will be made tomorrow, November 6th, we will soon know. Too bad they don’t hire Steve Jobs to do the announcement for them :)

Sources:

John Markoff, I, Robot: The Man Behind the Google Phone, New York Times, November 4, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/technology/04google.html

Ben Worthen, Ring-Ring…Google to Announce Phone Plans Monday, Wall Street Journal Online, November 1, 2007, 5:34 pm. http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2007/11/01/ring-ringgoogle-to-announce-phone-plans-monday/

Ben Worthen, The Gphone Is All About Mobile Software, Wall Street Journal Online, October 31, 2007, 1:10 pm. http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2007/10/31/the-gphone-is-all-about-mobile-software/

Amol Sharma, Can Google-Powered Phones Connect With Carriers?, Wall Street Journal Online, October 30, 2007; Page B1. http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB119369951717475558.html

Amol Sharma and Kevin J. Delaney, Google Pushes Tailored Phones To Win Lucrative Ad Market, Wall Street Journal Online, August 2, 2007; Page A1. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118602176520985718.html

–, Le Gphone dévoilé dans 15 jours ?, Abondance, lundi 27 août 2007. http://actu.abondance.com/2007/08/le-gphone-dvoil-dans-15-jours.html

Eric Schmidt, Google Intends to Bid in Spectrum Auction If FCC Adopts Consumer Choice and Competition Requirements, Google, Mountain View, California, July 20, 2007. http://www.google.com/intl/en/press/pressrel/20070720_wireless.html

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