Who wants a free Google phone? (and comic() {comic();})

Can you hear me now? It's Friday's IT Blogwatch: in which the oft-rumored Google phone gets closer, perhaps. Not to mention a recursive comic-strip...

Ben Ames reports

Google Inc. has developed a prototype cell phone that could reach markets within a year, and plans to offer consumers free subscriptions ... Google is showing the prototype to cell phone manufacturers and network operators as it continues to hone the technical specifications that will allow the phone to offer a better mobile Web browsing experience than current products.
Google declined to comment on the report of the prototype, but confirmed that it is working with partners to expand its software applications from the traditional Internet to mobile devices ... The move would echo another recent product launched by a phone industry outsider, Apple Inc.'s iPhone. But Google's product would draw its revenue from a sharply different source, relying on commercial advertising dollars instead of the sticker price of at least $499 for an iPhone and $60 per month for the AT&T Inc. service plan.
Industry watchers have long heard rumors that Google was designing its own mobile phone. Google added fuel to that speculation in July when it announced it was willing to spend $4.6 billion to buy wireless spectrum in a U.S. Federal Communications Commission auction. [more]

Mike Magee has a gross, a subtle and a supreme meaning:

Google ... is chatting up network operators with an eye on flogging a phone with all its favourite bits and bobs on - search, webmail and, quite possibly, its own browser. The [WSJ] says the Google has already invested a small fortune in developing the gadget and has a bunch of prototypes which it has been showing off to the likes of T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.

Google phones won't be go on sale before next year, says the paper, citing no-one in particular but it never used to make stuff up, as far as we know. Maybe times have changed. [more]

Ken Fisher has more on the auction:

Google is not ready to become a cellular provider just yet. Even if the company succeeds at the 700MHz spectrum auction, it will be a long time before it can compete with the likes of Verizon or AT&T as a carrier. Infrastructure can't be built overnight.

Instead, Google's approach is two-pronged, in that the company is working on its own devices, but is also working on a set of technical specifications and applications to be shared by multiple mobile devices. Google will allow manufacturers to use their prototype designs or make their own. Google's chief interest, clearly, is getting its applications on phones. Mobile device versions of Google Maps, Google Talk, and even Gmail are already popular, and the company is working on a web browser as well.
Third-party search results can't be manipulated by wireless carriers to promote their own offerings by privileging them in searches and other search-based services. The wireless industry thrives on monetizing what many would consider typical behavior on any IP network, and handing over the keys to Google makes them understandably nervous about their own futures. They might also be a bit bitter when Google turns around and uses its own services to cross-promote its other offerings, which it can do for free. [more]

Owen Thomas bursts the bubble:

Attention, credulous gadget-seekers: There is no such thing as a GooglePhone. There never will be. Google executives are, shareholders should hope, way too smart to get into the hardware business, with its razor-thin margins. Sure, the search giant of Mountain View may be developing prototypes to help persuade carriers to feature its search engine and carry its mobile ads ... But just as Google decided not to start making PCs, it's not going to start making cell phones, either ... Any PC can access Google on the Web. And so it will be with cell phones, too. Check in your pocket or your purse. Your GooglePhone's right there. [more]

But Brian Lam shrugs like a surly teenager at Mr. Thomas:

Whatever. As long as it supports the software, hopefully some shiny Mobile Google OS, we're interested ... Google has invested hundreds of millions on the project. Google has also developed prototype phones, with partners like LG Electronics ... In Europe, T-Mobile and Orange are believed to be partners. Verizon rejected their plans in the US because they wanted to share ad revenue. Taiwan's High Tech Computer Corp to design a Linux software-based phone for launch in the first quarter of 2008

Regardless of the reputations of both the WSJ and Reuters, take all of this with a grain of salt.. [more]

Jim Goldman alchemizes:

Here we go again ... we've already reported the myriad possibilities and puzzle pieces pointing to a possible cell-phone market entry by the search giant. More than a hundred engineers dedicated to the mobile market; the hiring of Danger Inc. co-founder and T-Mobile Sidekick developer Andy Rubin; the acquisition of wireless and net upstart Grand Central; the lead role the company took in laying down the ground rules of the upcoming FCC wireless spectrum auction; its cozy partnership with Apple and its iPhone, with Google CEO Eric Schmidt sitting on Apple's board.
There's a lot going on here. Seems like everyone recognizes the importance of wireless as the key catalyst in tech. Nokia released earnings today and the company announces that it sold 100 million handsets over the last quarter alone. That's a staggering figure, and with BlackBerry's continued success even in the face of the buzz iPhone still generates, the wireless market might be so hot that Google won't be able to afford to ignore it. [more]

MG Siegler drives off, in a haze of Castrol R:

Okay, so Google wants to get into the cellphone business - huge news, but not even the biggest. Word is that they hope to offer their phone for free - including the service! Google would be taking a page from their own book hereby opting to make their money off of serving customer's ads on their phone just like they do currently in applications like Gmail
One thing is for certain: between the iPhone and now Google's "gPhone" - the cellular carriers are in big trouble. After years of raking America over the coals with their ridiculously closed and expensive policies, they're getting schooled by the big boys in the computer and Internet industries. The shift to the phone makers having the power is on. [more]

Jon Fortt looks north:

In the long-term, Research In Motion (RIMM) could face competition from Google, too. Though Google is likely to focus early phone efforts on the mass market, the company has already shown that it wants to push paid versions of its free software (including Gmail, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, and Google Earth) into the enterprise. Google is already trying to get companies to run their e-mail through its Gmail service – it’s not hard to imagine the company extending that strategy into the mobile space. [more]

Ephraim Schwartz is worried:

A cell phone is no longer a "nice to have" device. It is the most important lifeline and communications tool we have. Google makes a big mistake if it doesn't give it the respect and deference it deserves.

I think this time Google may be biting off more than it can chew. Yes, what it's after is more platforms on which to sell advertising. After all, it's Google's main -- at this point, only -- revenue stream. But consumers, believe it or not, have their limits, and I think they will draw the line at commercials on their mobile. [more]

Lisa Barone crystallizes our love/hate relationship with Google:

as a user, I’m paranoid about the idea of letting Google invade my phone. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m going to send an email, do a search or map something out via my phone, I’m going to use Google 80 percent of the time (Ask’s maps rock), but even I like the illusion that using Google is a choice that I have made out of my own free will. Even if it’s not true, and my Google barcode is showing, please just let me go on thinking that, okay? [more]

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... Comic strip recursion (stack overflow, core dumped)

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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