Google phones – misnomer

In Information industry on September 23, 2008 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , ,

So Google are releasing their Google phone, snappily called “G1”. Nokia and Sony Ericsson are also up to new phone tricks, so the next few days should be interested for those of us into gadgets. Of course it’s all being portrayed as ooh, watch out Apple, but it all seems to be a case of comparing, well, apples and oranges (or rather operating systems). The iPhone is a lovely piece of kit from Apple, as we all know. They designed the operating system and the hardware, and they did the marketing and just about everything else. They made it look beautiful and they got people talking and, quite rightly, they changed the way (slightly, but definitely) we all think of mobile phones. Blackberry are another company who, while their business plan is different to Apple, control the whole process from software to hardware to marketing to after-sales service, and they create a full end-user product, targetted carefully, that changes the market; in fact, it created a whole new market for itself.

And then there is Google phone. And this is where I’m wondering what Google is up to. They’re very bright, and I’m sure they’re up to something, but the thing with the Google phone is that Google are not creating a finished phone product. No, they’ve just created a new operating system – like Symbian – and yet people are still talking about the phone (i.e. the physical thing in one’s hands) as the Google phone. But the phone is not made by Google; rather, it’s made by htc, who have been making ‘smartphones’ for a while now (with those funny little fold-out keypads). The phone seems to look, well, clunky – it’s “going to be the ugly duckling to the iPhone’s swan”. It’s just an operating system. It’s not a phone. People don’t talk about operating systems (at least not on phones), people don’t get excited by operating systems, but because it’s Google some folks might think “oooh Google phone… let’s have a look…. is that it? Ugly.”

I suppose that like Chrome, Google might not be thinking that their product is going to become the leading brand, but rather that they can nudge others towards changing the nuts and bolts of their operating systems to end up supporting more of Google’s advertising and/or cloud computing models. But right now I look at the Google phone and I wonder if they didn’t miss an opportunity here? Should they not have gone for the full vertical model and not only create a new operating system but also the design of a new phone, with the associated marketing etc. It’s not as if they’re short of money. At the moment it looks like a half hearted move into the phone market that will be all but forgotten a fortnight on Thursday…


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