Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Google-branded mobile phone

After accurately predicting Apple's iPhone development, the wireless rumor mill is churning once again. This time, it's prophesying a Google-branded mobile phone.

According to industry reports and analyst leaks, Google is investigating a low-cost, Internet-connected phone with a wide, full-color screen. Google could not immediately be reached for comment, but the search giant has publicly insisted that it has "nothing further to announce" beyond its focus on creating applications forging strategic partnerships with industry leaders.

However, newspapers, Wall Street analysts, and others contradict Google's tightlipped response to far-reaching conjecture backed by sources familiar with the company's plans. Much of the speculation is coming from overseas.

Google's Mobile Secret

The Observer of London is reporting that Google might be working with HTC and telecom giant Orange to develop a Google mobile phone. Some reason that the phone could come equipped with Google software that would open the door to the Web. The article hints that the Google device would become available in 2008.

Richard Windsor, a phone analyst with Nomura, a brokerage in London, claimed that at the CeBIT conference in Germany, Google spokespeople confirmed the company's intentions to develop a mobile phone. "This is not going to be a high-end device but a mass-market device aimed at bringing Google to users who don't have a PC," Windsor said in a note entitled "Google Phone: From myth to reality."

And Simeon Simeonov, a technology partner in the Boston office of Polaris Ventures, wrote in his blog that a team of 100 people at Google are working on "the Google Phone." He pointed to two of Google's 2005 acquisitions as pieces of the mobile-device puzzle: mobile application company Reqwireless and device software firm Skia.

"Apparently, Google is planning to build distribution relationships with multiple carriers by allowing them to minimize subscription and marketing costs. In other words, Google will market the phone online and carriers will fulfill," he wrote on March 4.

Optimizing Mobile Search

Because Google is the market leader in search, the concept of ensuring a good mobile-search experience by optimizing a Google-branded phone is a positive one for consumers, according to Shiv Bakhshi, director of mobility research at IDC. He said the mobile market is in a state of flux, with business models still being negotiated and explored. The timing of Google's foray into mobile, then, could make sense.

"The functionality of search in the mobile environment is fundamentally different than the functionality of search in the PC environment," Bakhshi noted. Searchers in a PC environment might take the time to explore multiple pages of results, he offered, while mobile searchers want to achieve a quick result. That quick result seems to demand optimization for a mobile environment.

"To ensure a good experience you have to make sure that the search works flawlessly. You have to optimize to make sure the front end works, the display works, the retrieval process works, and so forth," Bakhshi said. "If a device is not optimized and it doesn't work, you will try it a few times and be turned off."

If the rumors are true, Google could be attempting to avoid that scenario while boosting its position in the upcoming deluge of mobile advertising that many analysts are predicting.

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