The Wall Street Journal has (ummm – just figured out?) that Google’s phone ambitions are substantial. It’s not yet clear if they’ll become their own huge phone company, but I’m guessing they will and that they will do a good job solving some of the nagging problems that have been experienced by .. lets see now … 99.9% of all cell users? I do not think this necessarily bodes well for Google financially though, and release of hardware and a national cellular network may be part of their “jumping the shark” moment. Google has thrived as a company that could ramp up as profits rolled in. Not so with mobile, where they will have to anticipate a lot of profit and incur huge capitalization costs in a “bet” that they can capture enough of this market to turn a big buck. Clearly Google is already going to influence this market quite a bit by spearheading the open handset alliance and other open architecture initiatives, but it’s not clear their bottom line would have a huge positive impact even when you anticipate the revenue from advertising (currently small but sure to grow) and revenue from subscribers (currently huge but capital and labor intensive).
I’m torn between thinking Google clearly will fix many technical challenges with the hardware (I see even cheap phones as iPhone clones with great mapping and data and more), but Google has done a simpy *terrible* job of basic customer service over the years, feeling that if a problem solving thing can’t scale up then they won’t put much energy into that problem. Typically this has related to advertiser problems with adwords and webmaster problems with websites. Google has made some improvements as they hired legions of people to deal with customer service, but I cannot see Google handling millions of calls along the lines of “now, which button do I press to dial my sister in Toledo?”. Google culture is not compatible and will become impatient with the slow, labor and capital intensive mobile landscape. Maybe they’ll change it into something better. Maybe they won’t.
In any case they’ll bring some great phone online and as I’ve noted before I’m very excited about that.