By Eric Auchard
Google Inc. is developing its own mobile phone, according to industry
insiders and analysts, while a Google official in Spain last week
acknowledged the company is "investigating" such a project.
Google isn't commenting directly on leaks from Europe and the United
States which describe a low-cost, Internet-connected phone with a
color, wide-screen design. Newspaper and blog reports in recent months
have Google shopping its phone design to potential mobile phone
manufacturing partners in Asia.
"Mobile is an important area for Google," Google spokeswoman Erin Fors
said on Friday. "We remain focused on creating applications and
establishing and growing partnerships with industry leaders to develop
innovative services for users worldwide. However, we have nothing
further to announce."
Gadget enthusiasts who only two months ago were obsessed with the
potential revolutionary impact on the phone industry of Apple Inc.'s
iPhone device -- due out in June and at prices starting at $500 --
have shifted their attention to whether Google is developing an even
"We obviously need another mythical mobile to drool over and speculate
about -- and the natural candidate is, of course, the so-called Google
phone," geek hardware site Engadget wrote earlier this month.
To be sure, feverish speculation about Google products has been wrong
before. Google was widely reported to be building its own line of
personal computers a little over a year ago. What in fact materialized
was a set of free software programs designed to make any existing
Windows PCs easier to use.
But Richard Windsor, a phone analyst with brokerage Nomura in London,
told clients late last week that unspecified Google representatives at
a major European conference in Germany had confirmed the company is
working on its own phone device.
"Google has come out of the closet at the CeBIT trade fair admitting
that it is working on a mobile phone of its own," Windsor said in a
note entitled "Google Phone: From myth to reality."
"This is not going to be a high-end device but a mass market device
aimed at bringing Google to users who don't have a PC," he said.
Over the past year, Google has branched out beyond computers to bring
Web search, e-mail, mapping and other Web services to millions of new
and existing phone browsers worldwide. Rivals Microsoft Corp. and
Yahoo Inc. also are racing to run Web services on mobile phones.
Simeon Simeonov, a Boston-based venture capitalist with Polaris
Venture Partners, said in a March 4 blog post
http://tinyurl.com/2z23o7 that an "inside source close to the company"
had informed him that Google was developing a "Blackberry-like, slick
The device Simeonov describes could handle voice over Internet
phone-calling. He said it is being developed within a 100-person
mobile phone group at Google that includes Andy Rubin, the creator of
Sidekick, a popular phone/Internet device that he developed at a prior
company he founded, Danger Inc.
Lending further clues, Isabel Aguilera, head of Google's Iberian
operations, was quoted last week in Spanish news site Noticias.com as
acknowledging the existence of a part-time project by some Google
engineers to develop a mobile phone.
In her interview at http://tinyurl.com/2feypv/, translated from
Spanish, the Google executive said her company "has been
investigating" developing a mobile phone that works both as an
Internet access device and as a way to extend Internet use to emerging
In January, Engadget circulated a photo purporting to be a prototype
Internet phone with a wide, color screen designed by Google and built
by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.. This unconfirmed report replaced an
earlier theory published by The Observer in December that Google was
working with Taiwan's High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) on a mobile
A source at a rival Internet company who has talked to the same mobile
phone manufacturers said on Friday that "Google is going to build
their own phone, whether it is with HTC or Samsung or some other ODM
(original device manufacturer)."
Windsor, the London-based Nomura analyst who tracks mobile phone
handset makers like Nokia of Finland, argues that a Google Phone "will
meet with limited success and lose money" because it lacks the
necessary phone industry relationships to reach the massive scale
needed to compete.
Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.
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