RealTime IT News

Is Monday D-Day For G-Phone?

Google may finally go public with its "Google Phone" plans Monday. Rumors have been swirling that Google plans to make an announcement of some kind soon with a few of the largest U.S. wireless carriers, including Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless.

A blog post in the Wall Street Journal's online edition, citing unnamed sources, said an announcement is expected Monday.

Google did not respond to a request for comment at press time. The company has been coy about its plans, declining to confirm if there is such as a thing as the rumored "G-Phone" or Google Phone, an actual device that would compete with the Nokia's of the world.

The more recent speculation is that the search giant intends to make software available to several different phone carriers that would open up more application development, including its own, to mobile devices from a variety of companies.

If it's also working on a phone, there's no indication its release is imminent. In fact, even the software platform is likely to be more of a pre-announcement; its actual release isn't likely till later in 2008.

Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 U.S. mobile service, is in talks to put applications Google on its cell phones, according to recent reports. On Tuesday, sources told Reuters that the number two U.S. mobile service Verizon Wireless, a Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group venture, is also in talks with Google about putting applications on its mobile phones.

Sprint had already said in August it would offer Google Web search and communications services to customers using a new network it is building based on WiMax, an emerging high-speed wireless technology.

If and when the Google software is available it stands to shake up the mobile phone industry in general and software development in particular. The phone industry is still absorbing the impact of Apple's high profile iPhone, a device that already includes Google Maps software. Google CEO Eric Schmidt is also on Apple's board of directors.

"The Gphone if open and with all Google apps would represent a tremendous leap past rivals like MSN, Yahoo and AOL," said William Ho, an analyst with Current Analysis, in an email sent to InternetNews.com. "All the online guys are pining for future revenue growth in the wireless arena. It's no surprise that it's really an extension of their brands and services to keep the stickiness of the user to their companies."

Getting new applications on to mobile phones is far more difficult than traditional Web or PC distribution because developers usually have to work through or get the approval of carriers. Hyun Lee, a professor at Boston University's College of Communication, said it's inevitable consumers will want more options and flexibility in what software they can use on mobile devices that are quickly growing in compute power and network speed.

"Google will impact the mobile industry by pushing to open up platforms for third-party developers to create their own services," said Lee in an e-mail sent to InternetNews.com. "We can imagine the availability of services to be diverse. Carriers can take advantage of this diversity -- currently not all services fit the individual rather consumers try to fit into designed ways of managing and communication information."

Hyun said one possible direction is that consumers will be able to pick and choose from a virtual library of features depending on specific needs of the day or geographic location.

At its recent Analyst's Day, Google co-founder Sergey Brin did not discuss his company's phone plans but gave a clear indication Google would be supportive of moves to make the phone industry more open. "I love the iPhone, I use it all the time," he said, but he also noted the lengthy negotiations Apple had to engage in to cement its partnership with AT&T.

"Wouldn't the world be better if you didn't have to spend all this time and effort on negotiations with carriers?" said Brin, adding Jobs overcame obstacles that "shouldn't be there."

Google also is a likely bidder on the Government's auction of 700 MHz spectrum which Brin said also promises to open up a new wave of applications for mobile users.