The company, which has made billions of dollars in Web advertising on computers, is courting wireless operators to carry handsets customized to Google products, including its search engine, email and a new mobile Web browser, say people familiar with the plans. It wants to capture a big chunk of the fast-growing market for ads on cellphones. (...)
The long-rumored Google phones are still in the planning stages, and wouldn't be available to consumers until next year at the earliest, say people familiar with the idea. (...) The Google phone project goes far beyond Google's existing deals to include its search engine or applications such as Maps on select handsets (...).
[Google] is drafting specifications for phones that can display all of Google's mobile applications at their best, and it is developing new software to run on them. The company is conducting much of the development work at a facility in Boston, and is working on a sophisticated new Web browser for cellphones.
Google has a lot of deals with cell phone manufacturers and carriers, while most of the services have a mobile version. But it's much easier to improve the user experience when you control the software (mobile browser) and the hardware (the actual phone). It's unclear whether the mobile phones will also have Google's logo.
The specifications Google has laid out for devices suggest that manufacturers include cameras for photo and video, and built-in Wi-Fi technology to access the Web at hot spots such as airports, coffee shops and hotels. It also is recommending that the phones be designed to work on carriers' fastest networks, known as 3G, to ensure that Web pages can be downloaded quickly. Google suggests the phones could include Global Positioning System technology that identifies where people are.
People who have seen Google's prototype devices say they aren't as revolutionary as the iPhone. One was likened to a slim Nokia Corp. phone with a keyboard that slides out. Another phone format presented by Google looked more like a Treo or a BlackBerry. It's not clear which manufacturers might build Google wireless devices, though people familiar with the project say LG Electronics Co. of South Korea is one company that has held talks with Google.
Google has recently expressed the intention to bid in the upcoming auction of spectrum in the 700 MHz bands for the US if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) imposes some conditions to the winning bidders: users should be able to use any application, services, devices and third parties should be able to buy wireless services and to interconnect in a wireless network. FCC only agreed to the conditions for the users and Google is yet to decide if it will bid. "None of us like how the current system locks you into wireless service plans that limit the kind of phone or PDA you can use, prevent you from downloading and using the software of your choice, and charge you hefty termination fees if you try to get out."
Hopefully Google's phones will have the same openness and will allow you to change your search provider, your browser or your email client. If they're successful and Google finds a clever way to port the ads to the mobile space, the phone and the additional services might be heavily subsidized.