Rumor Mill: Google to make its own Android phone

Google is planning to release its own branded, unlocked, Android-based phone this year, according to a report in The move would mark a major break with the system Google has set up to grow the reach of its Android platform.

The report, which cited Northeast Securities analyst Ashok Kumar, said the company will work directly with retailers on the phone, and not wireless carriers. The report said that Kumar talked with Google's design partners about the plans and the phone is said to be using Qualcomm chips but no hardware partner was named.

If the plan becames a reality, it would represent in a dramatic shift in Google's Android strategy. The company to date has offered its Android software for free to handset makers to build their own devices and, in some cases, user interfaces. In the United States, Cellular South, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless have all openly declared their support for the platform, with handset makers ranging from Motorola to HTC to Samsung supplying the hardware. For Google to change course and offer its own device would essentially pit the company against supporters of its own platform.

Indeed, Palm encountered problems with just such a strategy during its PDA days, and in 2003 divided into two separate companies--Palm for hardware and PalmSource for the OS--to address Palm OS licensees' competition concerns.

Interestingly, the GPhone rumor is not new. In the early days of Android, rumors pointed to the possibility of a Google-branded phone.

Google spokeswoman Katie Watson declined to comment, telling FierceWireless the company does not comment on market rumors or speculation.

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