Google's Wireless Bid Plan Means It's Phone Serious - InformationWeek

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11/17/2007
11:50 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Google's Wireless Bid Plan Means It's Phone Serious

The chatter that Google may indeed be planning to bid for wireless spectrum space gives additional impetus to the expectation that there will indeed be a bunch of Google phones on the market in 2008. Yes, I know Google itself will not manufacture a phone. However, as I explained in my recent article, Inside The Gphone, the search-engine giant's Android partners are already putting a cutting-edge handset toget

The chatter that Google may indeed be planning to bid for wireless spectrum space gives additional impetus to the expectation that there will indeed be a bunch of Google phones on the market in 2008. Yes, I know Google itself will not manufacture a phone. However, as I explained in my recent article, Inside The Gphone, the search-engine giant's Android partners are already putting a cutting-edge handset together.Before researching Inside The Gphone, I had bought into the received wisdom of the blogosphere to the effect that Google had hyped the GPhone announcement beyond all reasonable proportions. The search-engine giant, many seemed to be writing, had accomplished the Microsoft-like feat of converting rapt anticipation to indifference. Or, as Valleywag archly put it, "there is no Google phone."

Now, I'm not of that opinion at all. Even a cursory examination of the Open Handset Alliance membership list indicates that you've got a bunch of companies with technology expertise so wide-ranging, it's impossible that their cooperation wouldn't yield a GPhone. To put it another way, throw a bunch of engineers from these vendors into a room, and a week later out would pop the best smartphone the industry has ever seen. (Or the most bloated, if no one steps up to the plate to adjudicate feature-creep.)

My assumption that Gphone efforts are already in progress stems as much from one key factor as from all the other minor evidence combined. Namely, a couple of companies with software-integration and training expertise are involved. You never need those folks -- and certainly no one wants to pay them - unless you're looking to bring a project in for a landing.

I'm speaking of companies such as Noser Engineering in Switzerland and Wind River Systems in Alameda, Calif.

I'm not terribly familiar with Noser, so it's hard to say for sure whether it's got a serious role in GPhone. But it certainly seems to be the company you'd call on for serious software testing and integration. That's the phase of the project where the operating system, apps, and hardware are buzzed out to ensure that everything works properly.

This is where Wind River might also come into the equation. The company is largely known as a vendor of real-time operating systems and development tools. (Those who've followed the embedded arena like I have give Wind River lots of credit for reinventing itself in the twenty-first century, after a long touch patch, as customers moved away from proprietary RTOSes toward open-source code.)

However, a company like Wind River doesn't simply throw its products over the fence to customers. It's able (or was in the past) to offer deep technical assistance, including help on the project management and software-integration fronts. I'm thinking that it might assume such roles in the Android ecosystem.

Finally, the broad range of semiconductor and service partners in the Open-Handset Alliance, as well as the membership of Taiwanese handset make HTC Corp., give additional impetus to the idea that a GPhone is in the works.

Heck, one member of Google's alliance -- HTC Corp. of Taiwan -- is all by itself the big sleeper in the smartphone market. It makes phones as interesting as anything from Apple or RIM (my personal favorite).Take the HTC Touch. You could slap a new wrapper and some software on that baby, and you'd have something you could call a Google Phone tomorrow. The only reason HTC isn't on the consumer mass-market radar screen is that it's in Taiwan, both physically and culturally, so it's off the beaten "brand-awareness" path. Also, it's spent much of the time since it was founded in 1997 making Windows Mobile-based Smartphones.

So keep an eye on HTC and watch for GPhones sooner rather than later. (The full list of GPhone, oops, Open Handset Alliance, partners is here.



The GPhone might make use of some of the UI treatments Sweden's TAT has designed. (Click picture to enlarge and to see more pictures.)

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