Google GPhone: The rumor that wouldn't die

Here we go again. Just when you thought rumors of a Google-branded mobile device (a.k.a. the GPhone) were finally put to rest months ago with the announcement of the Android OS, tongues are wagging once more. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the web services giant's co-founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin and CEO Eric Schmidt met with a dozen journalists last week for an informal and far-reaching discussion that touched on "the inroads the company is making with its own branded mobile phone as a replacement for the iPhone." Huh? Turns out Hollywood Reporter writer Dan Cox got the details mixed up--Silicon Alley Insider reports the Google execs were in fact talking about their Android-based devices, not a Google-branded handset. Or so it seems.

Further muddying the waters: TechCrunch reports San Francisco-based product design firm Ammunition Design Group is collaborating with Google to develop an Android-based, Google branded GPhone after all. Evidence is scarce, although Ammunition Design founder Robert Brunner served as Apple's director of industrial design until 1997, for whatever that's worth. But the question still remains why Google would want to enter the handset business in the first place: The company wants to make money on mobile advertising and search revenues, not device sales. A free, open-source OS like Android is the key to guaranteeing Google its place on handsets and operator networks across the globe.

Speaking of Google's carrier partnerships, the AndroidGuys blog on Monday published a Q&A with Sprint Nextel's product manager of Android mobile devices Jake Orion, who writes "Android has stiff, astute competition that is reacting to its plan... Android isn't providing unknown magic other OSes are quantum leaps behind on. In many cases their competition is ahead." Ouch. Moreover, Orion writes "Google's confidence, vision and self assurance are refreshing and innovative, but to be effective in this space Google will have to appreciate and address industry fundamentals more pragmatically. Needs include a more proactive and direct linkage to the carrier's network and service requirements. Also, a more stable development and testability process--particularly during the time-critical carrier test and debug phase." Let's see how the rumor mill responds to that. -Jason