The Google Phone… Everything You Expected And Less (For Now)

from the and-that's-it? dept

After Apple finally announced its iPhone, all the folks who spent years and years passing around rumors about it needed to move onto something else. The first easy target was the gPhone from Google, which has been rumored to be all different things over the past year. However, in the last couple of months, Google and its partners started leaking out a lot more info to tamp down expectations. They stated a few times that they were not building hardware, and then it came out that it was really just software that device manufacturers and mobile operators could offer that would be more “open,” but would clearly promote various Google services. Not quite as exciting as some of the earlier rumors. Today Google finally put out the official announcement and there are no real surprises. It appears to be exactly what the lowered expectations set it to be: an operating system built on Linux, that is open source and free for anyone to use. That is, it’s not a phone at all, but simply a platform for others to use.

Sprint and T-Mobile have signed up as partners agreeing to offer it — but it isn’t expected on handsets until the latter half of 2008. Despite some rumors that Verizon Wireless would put aside its dislike of Google and participate, so far it is staying on the sidelines. This isn’t surprising both given Verizon Wireless’ distaste for Google and its insistence on walled gardens over anything open. Also staying away is AT&T, which is hardly surprising at all, given its investment in the iPhone. The big handset partners are HTC and Motorola — again, no surprise. Motorola has dabbled around with Linux phones before and knows that it needs some kind of differentiator after getting clobbered by others in the market. HTC is a huge producer of Windows Mobile phones but has long had a pretty rocky relationship with Microsoft, so seeing a way to potentially get out from under that yoke must be appealing.

All in all, this is a good step forward for the mobile industry — offering a more open alternative with some big name backers. However, it’s not a revolutionary leap forward just yet. It’s an enabling move that hopefully will drive more innovation and potentially push operators towards a more open, more innovative world, but it’s going to be an incremental process. Even though it clearly wasn’t for everyone, the iPhone redefined what mobile phones could be overnight. Almost every company in the space has adjusted at least some part of their strategy to deal with the iPhone. The Google phone platform won’t have that same overnight impact, and depending on how well it works, it may never have that kind of impact. There will be a number of powerful forces working against Google in this space — and unlike Apple, since Google isn’t controlling the initial rollout and everything around it, it may make things tougher to fight through the initial noise. However, if it can get through any initial troubles towards adoption, then its openness and Google’s commitment to push it forward could lead to mobile devices and services that are a lot more powerful. So, while it’s not the flashy overnight sensation that the iPhone was, it has the potential to have a much larger long-term impact, though done so in a more typical understated manner.

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Companies: google, htc, sprint, t-mobile

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Comments on “The Google Phone… Everything You Expected And Less (For Now)”

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Jim A says:

Googles Intentions

“…and unlike Apple, since Google isn’t controlling the initial rollout and everything around it, it may make things tougher to fight through the initial noise.”

My position here is that Google will be more successful long term becuase it is Not Controlling the rollout, allowing flexibility,creativity and rapid time to market by 3rd party developers.

What Google really needs now is access to and control of the “Last Mile” which they may very well get if they can beat Verizon Wireless to the Uppper Band C Block 700Mhz spectrum being auctioned in Jan 2008.
By combining their OS with MultiMedia Handheld Access Devices (not just cell phones) and real Broadband networks (WiMAX/WiFi) they will have major impacton the Wireless World.

Jim (aka Jacomo)

Matt (profile) says:

Falls short of what is needed.

This quote from Engadget’s coverage completely deflates any excitement I had for this platform:

“‘Q: So if the industry wants to create totally locked down devices, they CAN do it?’ Rubin: ‘Yes.'”

As long as the carriers maintain the ability to pick and choose which apps and features can go into their phones and which can’t, it is completely irrelevant to the end user what the OS is. The operating systems are not what’s holding back this industry, it’s the proprietary, locked down nature that the carriers forcefully impose on every company involved. So long as things remain that way, all of this talk about openness and innovation is just smoke and mirrors.

Perhaps if Google wins the 700mhz spectrum auction, we will see some real changes in the carrier space, but I’m not holding my breath for Sprint and T-mobile to take the first steps here.

ScaredOfTheMan says:

Mixed feelings

I have mixed feelings about this motley crew. On the one hand I see Google pushing an open consumer beneficial platform for anyone and everyone to build on top of.

On the other hand I see Motorola, HTC (I own a HTC), who have been around for years and were never able to really build a revolutionary device (al iPhone) and have been “interface handicapped”.

I wish them the best of luck, but without any devices to show and with a long wait, I am not sure what the point of todays announcement was?

Who knows maybe mid 2008 I will be pleasantly surprised

DCG says:

Mixed feelings

I have mixed feelings about this as well.

One the one hand it’s good, as others have pointed out, that Google has made this platform open and available.

On the other hand, it’s Google! They have a scale of resources that few companies can match. This seems too half-baked to gather momentum.

Even when they have released services in the past that are in perpetual beta mode, they have been usable in a standalone manner.

Mike Cane (user link) says:

Google's USSRPhone

So Google basically thinks it can tie all these disparate pieces together like a new cellular USSR and have it suuceed?

Yeah, right.

Every manufacturer will have multiple UIs based on price point and/or hardware.

Code will be fatter because of that.

Users won’t know what 3rd-party software will run on which handset.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say Google is running a distraction stategy on behalf of Apple.

Symbian, rev 2. Only worse.


Hopeless Charm says:

Google is No Apple

Most bogus announcement EVER! Google has just shown themselves to be more Microsoft/IBM than Apple. We wanted a new, ultra-innovative high-tech phone on a new cell network owned and operated by Google. We got a rock instead (ala Charlie Brown). Apple/ATT have the iPhone. HTC/Sprint have the Mogul. Google gives us a rock. Open platforms, alliances, frameworks, open source software, it all sounds so early ’90s. This is what it feels like when a dream dies….

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