If you haven’t heard, rumors are flying around about a google phone – no I’m not referring to Android, but rather something called the
Why would Google do this? I’m guessing these might be the reasons they are pursuing this strategy.
1. Re-establishing control – Android ended up living up to it’s promise of being the perfect white label OS for mobile carriers, and in the process ended up a lot more fragmented as an offering. With three different types of Android handsets, and various handset specific versions (Cliq, Sense, Rachel), there is little control that Google could exert on manufacturers who choose the non-Google experience version of the OS. Creating your own phone brings ownership right back into Google’s lap, with all the benefits that it entails.
2. Cloud is the new pc – There has never been a greater number of web based services that leave you wondering if you really need a desktop. Other than running an OS and a browser, if you are adventurous enough, you can pretty much do everything online, from the mundane (Google docs, groups) to the exciting (photo editing using Aviary, 3d gaming etc.). Even the OS part will change soon enough with Google’s Chrome, an OS designed from the ground up to support web based applications. With so many of the traditional pc services moving to the cloud, why not a phone? The increasing prevalence of fast processors, connections make a phone a perfect platform for cloud based services and apps and with a Google Phone, Google has control over every aspect of how this phone will connect to the internet, either being subsidized through ad based revenue as some have speculated, or through other creative methods.
3. Design cohesion – I don’t know if Google cares about design cohesion but with multiple parties involved in the development of any single Android based phone, Android products have felt thrown together. I have been an avid proponent of Android for quite a while, but I’ve also been carrying around a ipod touch and my Google ION doesn’t hold a candle to the speed and performance of the Apple product (now granted I’m comparing iTouch and a phone but the core interaction remains the same whether it’s an iPhone or iTouch). Having one entity (google) in charge of the end to end user experience should result in a better designed product.
4. Next ad platform – Of course this goes without saying but with 1B mobile phones sold every year, and about 140M smartphone sales, mobile phone are the largest category of consumer electronic devices and are growing at double digit rates all of which add up to a perfect ad platform for Google. Google’s recent acquisition of AdMob is just the first step towards establishing a whole suite of mobile metrics that will leverage location, context and transactions to driver more targeted ads.
However, while there might be reasons why Google might be pursuing this strategy, nothing explains why they would make a decision to leave behind all the manufacturers who have jumped behind the Android platform and invested significant resources in the development of phones based on this OS (Motorola, SE).
If Google does in fact decide to approac customers directly with their offering, I can only imagine that manufacturers will start looking for an alternate OS that can power their smartphones.