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It is obvious that Google is going to embrace mobile applications very, very powerfully in the coming year and it looks like Google has a great first iPhone effort with their new search application featuring a lot of automated guessing so you can avoid the most painful part of the mobile experience – typing.
Of course things are *really* going to get interesting this fall or early next year when a new Google mobile phone will come out. Although Google has produced branded hardware for some time in the form of search appliances these had an extremely limited distribution. The upcoming “G Phone” will be a *huge* success if it offers iPhone functionality at a lower price. I think the latest assumption is that a Google phone will be made by HTC for Dell though I have not checked in on this recently. I think the Google branding factor will be incredibly powerful, and predict that *most* users will choose a “Google gPhone” over an “Apple iPhone” assuming similar features and cost. This isn’t to suggest the iPhone market cannot exist alongside a gPhone, and clearly the iPhone is the mobile device to beat, so the game is very much on right now in terms of smartphone competition. Sprint’s new “Instinct” is an excellent device with many advantages over the old iPhone (e.g. Geolocation), though I think we’ll see functionality in these devices converge as early as next year with no compromises for users. Computing is rapidly moving to mobile.
Here is a demo of the iPhone application at the Google Mobile Blog
Update: The headlines are misleading. This phone is not by Google, but will be able to run “Android”, the Googley operating sytem from the Open Handset Alliance. This is an important development but different from a true phone from Google.
There are reports that a Google Phone or gPhone will be out shortly. Here are some pictures. There is not much buzz about this yet so I’m not clear about the source of these rumors, but it makes sense to me that Google will put something out much earlier than the “middle of 2008” we’ve seen in a lot of reports.
Based on the early pix I’m not sure this device is going to win any design awards – looks more like a geek design than the stylish iPhone design that has helped make Apple the clear “smartphone to beat” and brought them such success in this market. However on balance I think that *cost* will be the key. If the gPhone can come in under $100 and do all the neat things promised by Android and the Open Handset Alliance, I think it’ll be so broadly adopted as to be an unstoppable mobile force.
The Android SDK is out. This would be geek speak for saying “let the cell phone games begin”, and perhaps market speak for “Palm’s Dead and Symbian is probably screwed”.
The Androids haven’t just landed though, they are bearing suitcases stuffed with cash for developers who bring neat applications to market. This is more of the normal Google cleverness at work. Don’t just make it free, *pay* people to make it, and make it better than anything that has come before. Brilliant!
Unselfish of Google? Hardly. With their lock-grip on online advertising don’t forget who will be the big winner in a world saturated with mobile users surfing around a lot more stumbling upon super relevant geo-targeted pay per click advertising. For those of you in the back of the class, that winner would be …. Google.
Over at Om’s blog somebody in the comments suggested that Open Handset seemed like a solution looking for a problem, which seemed very ill informed to me. It solves two big problems – crappy phones that will soon be like iPhones, but much cheaper, and it will bring more organization and convergence to our harried digital lifestyle by blending mobile and online worlds more effectively than the current players have managed to do.
Maybe I’m missing something but I agree with those who see the Open Handset Alliance approach as a profound sea change in mobile, and something that will shake things up quickly (though not necessarily the prize money because $10,000,000 is a drop in the bucket of cash at stake here – over a trillion dollars in the coming decade. )
I’m *already* anxious to get rid of my nasty Palm Treo software (and maybe the whole phone) given that it won’t even synch anymore without me losing all my data. I envision a mobile future where my phone, PC, GIS, picture, and online needs all merge *seamlessly*, are accessible from all my devices easily and without any extra steps, and where I pay *nothing* for services in exchange for viewing ads or pay something if I want to get rid of the ads.
Open Handset is going to make that happen fast, and I wish them well.
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.
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.
Palm’s new phone – the “Centro” – offers a price breakthrough for “higher end” smart phones. With a mid-october launch date. My prediction is that this is too little too late from Palm, already struggling to regain a market. The Treo was a significant improvement over earlier phones and PDAs, but Apple’s iPhone effectively blew the Treo design out of the water. Others will copy the iPhone and other good smart phone features but it seems Palm has just issued a “cheap” version of the Treo. This was too little too late to compete with the iPhone and coming Google phone
This *may* work depending on the expectation of users. If people who have held off on iPhones decide they can now afford a device that has the enhanced functionality of the Centro AND if the Google phone is delayed past Christmas (unlikely in my view), the Centro may be the boost Palm seems to desparately need. However, unlike the iPhone the Centro is unlikely to create a huge buzz. Unlike the iPhone which was a masterpiece of clever innovation and hype, the Centro can only brag about a price breakthrough – it is nothing like a technology breakthrough. A large screen at this price might have made this the “must have” gadget for high schoolers and soccer moms, but I don’t see this taking off.
The Google phone is likely to come out before Christmas and if it’s in this price range and more like the iPhone it’ll be the device of the year and yet another feather in Google’s oversized cap (and oversized market cap!)
IMHO LARGE screen sizes will be the key to success as phones evolve.
More on Google Phone from Business Week