This past weekend, I went away for a couple of days and spent some time unplugged. Given that the weekend is a slow time for news, I wasn’t expecting much upon my return. Boy was I wrong….
During my brief hiatus, the blogosphere went absolutely nuts over news that Google distributed mobile phones to its employees as part of a “dogfooding” process. “Dogfooding” is a term Google uses when it has its employees test out its own technology to get feedback on its performance.
Whether right or wrong, many industry watchers immediately annointed this new device the hallowed “Google Phone”. The “Google Phone” is the name for a mysterious device that has been rumored to be in development for many months by Google. Its destiny is to slay the iPhone with a mighty fell swoop and lead us to mobile nirvana.
Here are a sampling of some of the articles from the last few days:
TechCrunch – The Google Phone, Unlocked (Confirmed and More Details)
Engadget – The Google Phone: what we know… and what we don’t
Mashable – Google’s Nexus One: What Makes It Different
Engadget – Exclusive: first Google Phone / Nexus One photos, Android 2.1 on-board
Gizmodo – Why We All Need to Calm Down About the Google Phone
While the story and premise are grand, I don’t buy it. Now, I do not have any inside information or connections at Google, but here’s why this is not the Google phone:
Google is not a hardware company. Google does not design hardware, it doesn’t manufacture hardware, and it doesn’t distribute hardware. Sure, all of these skills can be outsourced or bought. But for a project of this magnitude, don’t you think Google would have hired in some expertise? I would figure we would have seen job postings and significant hiring of hardware expertise if Google was really serious.
The “Google Phone” is an HTC device. All of the pictures and specification released thus far match up to a device that HTC has been developing called the Passion. Google has a history of developing devices with their closest Android handset partners (see G1, MyTouch and Droid for examples).
The “Google Phone” is a developer device. Much like the Android Dev Phone 1 (ADP1), this phone appears to be a developer phone. The ADP1 was also made by HTC and turned into the T-mobile G1. The ADP1 can be purchased unlocked and used on the T-mobile network. The rumored “Google Phone” is following the same path. The ADP1 is in dire need of an upgrade, and the current platform is likely tapped out at Android version 1.6. Google needs a developer platform that can support Android 2.0 and above.
Google needs mass adoption of Android by handset manufacturers. Google will not defeat Apple’s iPhone alone. It needs as many handset manufacturers as possible to flood the market with devices and innovate with Android. As the primary developer of Android, Google would alienate handset manufacturers, stunt Android adoption, and ultimately cede the market to Apple’s iPhone if it made its own device.
Google needs carrier support. Google will not jeopardize its relationship with T-mobile and Verizon – it needs that relationship to have viable outlets for Android devices. If Google tries to sell a device on its own that undermines the carriers, it risks having carriers move en masse to an alternative platform.
Google is an advertising a software company. Google realizes that the money is in software and advertising, not hardware. Hardware is a painful business with slim margins. I don’t see any reason why Google would subject itself to that market when it has many handset manufacturers, which it can influence, willing to fall on that sword.
A real Google Phone will not be a phone. A true Google Phone will be a phone in name only. A real Google Phone will be an internet appliance that provides streamlined access to the internet, which is how Google makes its money. The “phone” portion will be tightly integrated with Google Voice and use VoIP. Obviously, the device will have WiFi, so it would make use of internet infrastructure, not existing cellphone infrastructure.
I love the premise and hope behind a “Google Phone”. As in the Matrix, we long for The One that will challenge and defeat the iPhone, because we know that strong competition will lead to even greater innovation in the mobile handset market. Unfortunately, this device is not The One.
Here are the key takeaways from the last few days:
- Android has achieved critical mass and significant mindshare
- Google has become powerful player in the mobile market and can move it by sneezing
- People really want a viable alternative to AT&T and the iPhone.
For now, we will have to continue waiting for the arrival of The One.