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Google Phone Rumours

 Google Phone 20th March 2007

Recent comments by Google Iberia's CEO, Isabel Aguilera, indicate that the search engine giant is working on its own mobile phone. Spanish online journal noticias.com published a brief article (in Spanish | English) indicating that Google engineers have been working (at least to some extent) on a mobile device.

There is nothing certain about the specification of any upcoming Google phone - and indeed there may never be one, but it's an intriguing idea for many reasons.

At first glance you might think that this type of idea is about branding. Like Apple, Google is a highly prestigious name and you might think that Google would be happy knocking together an iPhone competitor, but we think that Google will take a significantly different approach.

More than just a search engine

Google is no stranger to mobile services. Google Mobile is a neat front end to web browsing, searching and Google Mail.. but it's a very limited approach. Instead Google may well take the opportunity to come up with a tightly integrated client/server arrangement with any Google Phone which could knock the competition into a cocked hat.

 Calendar Although the vast majority of Google visitors use the search engine only, Google is a major destination in its own right with Gmail / Google Mail, Google Maps / Maps for MobileGoogle Calendar, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google Video / YouTube, Blogger, Google Talk and dozens of other applications and tools. Many of these applications would be ideal for use on a mobile device, and indeed there are mobile versions of most Google tools available.

Google can go one step further with its own phone though. Instead of accessing Google services through a web browser, Google could create a more sophisticated arrangement where a software application on the handset itself interacts with the Google server, allowing seamless client/server integration with email, calendering and other tools that you'd normally only expect to see on an enterprise level device such as a corporate BlackBerry solution. But because of the way Google works, this level of sophistication could be available to everyone, not just businesses. Push email via Gmail is another possibility with this arrangement.

Enterprise level integration for the consumer?

 Google Services Even more complex applications could work seamlessly. Users could create a Google spreadsheet on their business PC, work on it later on a mobile phone and then access it again at home.. all without having to worry about transferring files.

Powerful location-based solutions could be created by adding a GPS module to the Google Phone and use it alongside Google Maps.

What's more, Google could make this work very easily "out of the box". Once a user has given their authentication details to the Google Phone then there's very little more that needs to be done. All the phone data would be synchronised with the Google server, so it could be easily accessible from a desktop machine or even by another authorised person.

Giving enterprise style sophistication with Mac style ease of use to the average customer is something that other providers would struggle to compete with, and crucially it would give a competitive advantage to Google over the likes of arch-rivals Microsoft.

What might the Google Phone look like?

So far, we've talked about how Google might make their application suite work with a phone, rather than speculating about the device itself. Our best bet is that any Google Phone would run a version of Linux because that offers the level of sophistication needed to run a complex application, and Google is already quite used to dealing with that operating system.

Given that the handset is likely to be a Linux smartphone, then Google would want to choose a partner experienced in that field. Motorola is probably the leading Linux proponent with handsets such as the Motorola ROKR E6 and several other devices. Alternatively, Samsung sell Linux-based smartphones in China and other manufacturers such as Panasonic and NEC also compete in this area. There are also several small startups that Google could work with - or even buy outright.

 Nokia 770 running Google Search A device such as the Nokia N800 or Nokia 770 (pictured) might seem ideal as it has a wide screen and runs the Maemo Linux platform, but crucially this platform does not support standard voice calls yet. Although Maemo isn't a major business area for Nokia, there could be a considerable advantage for both Google and Nokia to develop a device of this type. But this is just speculation (of course!).

With the right development, Google services could be made to work seamlessly on a variety of handsets including large format PDA-style smartphones and much more compact traditional style business phones.

Of course, perhaps there will be nothing at all.. but the possibility of a Google Phone is so compelling that it would be a shame if it never happened.

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