The widely anticipated debut of the Google Smart Phone is today. The phone will be made my HTC, sold by TMobile, and run by Android the open source operating system. Offering free email service to all subscribers, It appears Google and Tmobile are going after the blackberry market more than iPhone which sounds like a clever plan to me. Apple users are very loyal and very unlikely to move away from their beloved iPhones. Blackberry and Treo users will be looking closely at the new phone and I think in many cases happy to move to a better phone (me certainly included as a Treo user).
Early reports are suggesting that the Android operating system will be very “developer friendly”. Android is promoted and supported by Google for the crop of new phones coming this fall. The OS will be very open for developers and robust, suggesting we’ll see a lot of great innovation in this space very soon, innovation that is consistent with Google’s very open architecture standards (except in search!)
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.
Google is *incredibly* good at keeping secrets, and the rumors of a new gPhone or Google Phone have been flying for some time. However CNET’s Tom Krazit is reporting tonight that Google, on Monday, will unleash “Android”, an open source approach to mobile phones. As they have with Open Social, Google will unveil an open source approach to development of mobile software. How do you know it’s going to be good? Google does not do bad software. In fact the Apple iPhone’s most compelling feature – mapping – was driven by Google software.
As I noted before about Google’s Phone ambitions this is another brilliant move which is clearly seeking to dominate the mobile advertising space rather than try to develop and market new hardware.
Google’s mantra could not be clearer if it was listed on every home page on earth: “Free software by anybody and for everybody. Monetization by ….. Google.