The origins of the Google phone


The origins of the Google phone

Just to be clear, there is no Google phone--not yet, anyway. Despite the persistent rumors, Google's top executives have never formally announced that a Google-branded handset launch was imminent. In fact, the most provocative thing Google's top executives ever said about mobile phones was that they should be free.

Like the iPhone before it, however, if a Google phone ever does launch it will enjoy a healthy amount of buzz thanks to the months (or years) of rumors that preceded it. Each of these "reports" whether based on off-hand comments from Google executives, complete fabrications by excitable bloggers or insider information from company sources contribute to the feverpitch surrounding the phone, but combined they will probably never reach the same level of noise that the iPhone enjoyed earlier this year. Some analysts concluded that the iPhone rumor mill equated to a couple hundred million dollars worth of free marketing that clearly helped iPhone sales (see story number four below).

There have been a handful of notable rumors about the gPhone as well as statements from Google's executives that have led to the hype surrounding the mythical handset. Each has helped inflate Google's image as a player in the mobile industry. Here are my top five:

  • November 13, 2006: Google CEO Eric Schmidt said mobile phones should be free at the Web 2.0 conference in New York City. Schmidt explained, "It just makes sense that subsidies should increase" as ads on the mobile platform become more prevalent.
  • June 1, 2007: The Wall Street Journal reports that Google has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the mobile handset project and is currently courting carriers in the U.S. for a carriage deal.
  • July 20, 2007: Google announces it will commit a minimum bid of $4.6 billion if the FCC puts in place its calls for open access on a certain block of the spectrum auction. The pledge is a watershed moment for the concept of Google as mobile carrier, even though the FCC ends up adopting only two of the company's four open access provisions.
  • March 17, 2007: Google's CEO of Spain and Portugal Isabel Aguilera said the company is working on a wireless phone for emerging markets. The project is one of 18 R&D initiatives the company is pursuing according to the exec.
  • September 4, 2007: Lastly, I think that Google's recently published patent application for a mobile payment service, dubbed "Gpay," is big news for those hoping for a gPhone launch. This past year has seen the rise of mobile financial services on a massive scale, and the prospect of Google entering the sector could really shake things up. Gpay could be just the differentiator Google is looking for in its cheaper alternative to the iPhone. Few people spend hundreds of dollars for their wallet, the same will be true for the mobile wallet. -Brian

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