Rumors that Google might buy Sprint appear to be mostly just that – silly rumors to catch a headline. Not so much that it would be a bad idea – for Sprint it would be the rescue they can only dream about as shifts in subscribers and the mobile landscape do not appear to favor Sprint right now. As a Sprint customer with 4 phones on the plan you’d think I’d be rooting for them, but my misadventures with bad coverage here in Oregon and back east, the overhyped Treo 650, and a ringtone scam I had to *remind* them remove too often has basically soured this customer.
If Google buys Sprint the Champagne should be popping – but probably not at Google though the economics of a deal like this are well beyond my expertise – probably anybody’s for that matter.
Google clearly wants to enter and effectively destabilize and reinvent the mobile market and they’ve already taken a major first step in the direction with the Mobile Handset Alliance. Also true that Google can keep a secret as the recent Myspace “Open Social” partnership made very clear. But I have a hunch they’ll do this more indirectly than managing their own mobile network. Cleverly, Google is poising themselves to be the keeping of most mobile advertising which is where the “extra” cash is now laying on the table. Open Handset Alliance phones will combine with mobile services and ads to bring a lot more advertising revenue into this market fairly fast, and Google is making sure a Google mobile OS, or something very compatible, is waiting there to scoop up the bucks.
Why buy the cow when you can get all that milk … for free?
Matt Ingram has it right again – Google sees Openness as a competitive advantage, but Google is also correct that Open Social networking and open cellular software and hardware are in the best long term interests of the internet community.
The tech blogosphere has been abuzz for several days now with Google’s message of Open Social Networking (Open Social) and Google’s gPhone / Google Phone / Android / Open Handset Alliance. Open Social will bring a very open architecture to websites and networking while Android will craete very open software and presumably unlockable and open hardware for the mobile market.
Is Google being generous? Not really – they correctly see this as a path to even greater Google profits from advertising. Google scoops up some 50% of all online advertising revenue now, and this is likely to continue until Yahoo and Microsoft get their advert-asses in gear, which does not appear to be happening anytime soon. So, while the long term consequences of openness are very unclear the short term benefits are going to go to … Open up and say it loud … GOOGLE!*
* No, I would not recommend buying GOOG at $700 per share. This pretty much anticipates a smooth transition to a Google world, which seems unlikely. The internet, after all, is not driven by rocket science … it is driven by … advertising.
Today Google and partners announced the Open Handset Alliance, a group of phone related businesses and technology providers that are committing to develop phones and software with an “open architecture”.
Although showcasing an actual Google Phone would have been more dramatic, this approach will likely shake up the cell phone world in a variety of ways, especially if this approach gains quick traction in the developer community. On November 12th Google will make available a free package, the “Android SDK” which is a software kit for phone application developers. If the Google mapping applications used by the iPhone and the Treo are an indication of the kinds of new phone functionality we can expect from this Google’s expressed goal of trying to create something like a “magic phone” could actually become a reality. Google asked kids what they’d want in a “magic phone”. I think this was a neat way of helping adults innovate and think out of the box during the software design phase.
More details about the Google Phone are shaking out, with a press conference expected Monday to announce the big plans. NYT has a great profile of Andy Rubin, Google’s gPhone Meister who started Android to develop a better mobile device and was then aquired by Google.
It now appears that the mobile Operating system will be available on some phones in development by Google partners shortly, but it’ll be the middle of next year before we see an actual Google phone. Andy Rubin’s role does appear to indicate that Google will put out it’s own hardware device though, which will be something of a full circle for the company. Few may remember that Google’s initial business model called for major deployments of a rack mounted search server called a “Google Appliance” that would search internal enterprise networks for documents. I’m guessing, but I think Eric Schmidt would initially have scoffed at the idea that Google would rapidly become an advertising empire more than a technology and hardware empire, and that revenues would come 99% from advertising with almost nothing from the search appliance business.
Now, with the Google Phone, they may just do it all.
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.
Om Malik is reporting on several aspects of the coming Google Mobile operating system and/or “Google Phone” that will likely drive many phones and be available through several carriers which may include T Mobile and Sprint.
As noted before here at the blog, a Google mobile OS could be one of the most provocative applications in years. If the Google phones create a powerful ad distribution mechanism and place that on top of the data and voice services Google could reduce the cost of cellular service significantly (or keep the costs fairly high and rake in tons of mobile advertising revenues). In both cases Google wins big if their phone is widely adopted. Unlike the Social Network space where Google has a poor track record with Orkut, Google shines when developing great technology and combining it with advertising. For this reason I predict a huge Google win with the Google Phone.
Thinking about moving away from Sprint now that I can hopefully unlock my Treo 650 from the evil clutches of the marginal Sprint signal here in Southern Oregon. With a theoretically robust national network and a top of the line phone you’d think I’d get a signal on, say, all the key cities on the main drag here which is Highway 101. But it is not so – I’ve had connetivity problems even in Medford which is the largest city on I5 for hundreds of miles.
I’m also underwhelmed by the Treo 650, though I’d have to say the Google maps integration is nothing short of brilliant. When I tested some iPhones in Atlantic City I was blown away by the mapping feature from Google. Treo 650 mapping is inferior due to the small touchscreen but still very, very nice – one of those applications that Ben Franklin would have flipped his wig for (and then probably improved on – that dude ROCKED as a technologist!)
So, when Google gets busy with the new phone or software I’m gone, Sprint. Unless you sign up with them and get me a better phone with better features and cheaper cost. I’m not holding my breath on that.
David Berlind has a very insightful piece about the upcoming offering from Google in the cell phone space. Usually this is called the “G Phone” (or maybe “gPhone”? “gee, Phone!”), and it’s certainly coming soon to a handheld device near you.
It is still not clear if Google will actually endorse the hardware as well as the mobile software they’ve been working on, but there will be a phone by next year (I still predict it’ll be out in time for Christmas), and it will feature rich integration with Google maps, search, and probably a bunch of other clever Googley applications developed for the explosive mobile market.
Berlind notes that we are all seeking technological “religious experiences” with our devices, and the current crop of phones, even including the iPhone, do not deliver enough of them.
David is harder on the Apple iPhone than I have been but I agree that the holy grail ain’t here yet, and also agree that Google, learning from iPhone’s mistakes and all the hype and feedback about that project, might hit the cellular nail on the head with the gPhone. I predict a major Google phone innovation in using advertising to defray the cost of calling. This could take many forms but I think a clever integration of highly targeted advertising during web browsing and text messaging could be fairly inoffensive to users but provide a decent portion of the revenues that the carrier would need. Frankly all Google needs to do is reduce the cellular cost enough to the customer that they’ll switch over from other carriers like ATT and Sprint. These companies have done little to create brand loyalty and a better system will have users leaving in droves.
But we may have to wait until 2008 to find out how good the gPhone is going to be.
Unless they are out by Christmas, in which case I may actually do my Christmas shopping early this year.