The gPhone: My Take

Please don’t hold your breath on the Google Phone announcement: you’ll probably pass out and it won’t have been worth it. Google is set to “announce” a phone project — I hesitate to say product — today, partnering with HTC and Samsung along with a few other OEMs to supply phones with some sort of mysterious Google thing installed. I’m going to state some facts and then state my expert opinion, based on my concern that this is actually kind of boring. Oops. I blew my load right there, but do please read on.

We reported long ago that HTC has partnered with Google to place their app/OS onto their phones. The leak included mention of GPS-enabled Google Maps as well as Google Talk, pointing to a potential VoIP play.

WSJ and USA Today are touting “broadband” speeds and sexy features like “Location Aware” phones and “Multi-player Gaming,” all of which have been pie-in-the-sky ideas for years. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve attended where someone whips out a wonky prototype and waves it against a poster of Britney’s genitals, enabling them to buy concert tickets via RFID. Like multi-touch, all of this is vaporware until it’s put to practical use, so I suspect that Google is doing what Apple did — making advanced technologies actually work.

Now, here’s why I’m scared. Google can partner with as many OEMS as they want and they can even work with Sprint and T-Mobile and AllTell and Joe’s MVNO of the Mountains. In the US, it all comes down to the dollars carriers can suck out of a product and for Google to make any money on this project, it needs to be the one sucking out dollars. That means text ads and video ads and voice ads slathered all over everything, assuming this is an OS. If this just a suite of applications — mini-Gmail, mini-Gmaps, mini-Gdocs — then fine. That’s what Yahoo! and MSN did and that’s just dandy. If that’s the case, however, this hype will be for nought.

Now, if it is an OS or a piece of hardware, we’re in different territory. Apple convincing AT&T to sell a piece of hardware was an easy proposition. Apple gets some cash, AT&T gets a 2-year subscriber, and little else is exchanged except for a few iTunes sales. But notice the discrete lack of paid content on the iPhone — AT&T wants to be the conduit for bikini-clad women jumping up and down, not the hardware/OS provider. Remember where we’re getting our reporting — USA Today and WSJ. These are mainstream papers aimed at the heartland and at investors. It’s not like they flew Michael Arrington out to look at the phone or even anyone who could objectively assess whether this is a “new mobile-phone operating system” as the WSJ put it or a suite of applications build on mobile Linux or even — *shudder* WinMo. I’m not saying those USA Today and WSJ folks are drunks, but they’re getting inside info from folks who might have some sort of financial interest in GOOG’s current $700 per share stock price. Just sayin’.

So where are we? I’d say that there is an 80 percent chance that this is just a software suite, a 19 percent chance this is an OS and a 1 percent chance this is a piece of hardware.

What do you think? Give us your take in BFF

More CG Coverage

Google Phone Plan Draws Interest [WSJ]
What Will Google Mean to Phones? [WSJ]
Ring-Ring…Google to Announce Phone Plans Monday [WSJ]
What’s the Point of Google’s Phone ? [SeekingAlpha]
Google enlists help for Google Phone [USAToday]