Maybe in a few years, the phrase “Google me” will have a whole new meaning: although it’s been rumored for over a year, a Google official in Spain confirmed last week (Spanish) that the Internet giant is “investigating” creating its own mobile phone, although the official played down the significance of Google’s activities.
The confirmation has generated a storm of speculation that threatens tarnish the pre-launch halo around Apple’s iPhone, which (possibly until now) had the industry atwitter as a paradigm-shifting device. The iPhone is due in June on AT&T at prices starting at $500; it combines a phone with wireless Internet capabilities, smartphone features, and a widescreen iPod.
Industry pundits are now speculating Google may try to get into the game with a lower-cost VoIP-capable device which offers a color, wide-screen design with strong Internet features tying into (of course) Google’s broad range of search, mapping, email, and mobile application offerings. Other industry watchers have Google targeting the high-end of the existing mobile market (much like Apple’s iPhone) or bypassing the North American market entirely and designing an inexpensive device designed to appeal to consumers in emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere.
No feature list, pricing information, or availability of an alleged “Google Phone” has been released, and it’s worth noting that rumors about hardware products from the company have been wildly wrong in the past. In 2006, a flurry o speculation had Google getting ready to launch its own line of personal computers.
To launch its own phone, Google would likely partner with an established manufacturer; speculation has centered on South Korea’s Samsung and Taiwan’s HTC. Depending on its target market, Google might rely on phone manufacturers to reach deals with mobile operators to bring the phone to market, or might try to work out its own deals with mobile operators, particularly if the device(s) require specialized services to implement unique features.