The GooglePhone is coming. There has been no official announcement, but in all likelihood it will sail over the event horizon in 2008.
Like the iPhone, the GooglePhone began its life as a mythic beast. Like the iPhone, initial rumors and speculation swirled hot and heavy. Like the iPhone, wild speculation gave way to tantalizing specifics, cited by those “who have been briefed on it,” as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently put it.
If the parallel holds true to form, next up (early 2008?) will be the official announcement. It will be most interesting to see how Google handles that, and what forum, if any, is used. Steve Jobs is a tough act to follow.
The GooglePhone promises to be every bit as big a deal as the iPhone. Maybe even bigger. Say what you will about Google, but in its first 9 years it has done enough things right to earn its $160 billion market cap.
If the WSJ is right and Google has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its cellphone project, these guys aren’t fooling around.
Which is why I just about choked on my coffee, when Eli said “GooglePhone” in the first 15 seconds of his recent Cramer moment. Although the comment seemed innocent enough, why mention the GooglePhone? There just might be something up here. The interchange:
Cramer: “I was making a joke. I was trying to get some flavor as to how exciting the flash memory summit might have been?”
Eli: [laughs]. “I think the industry definitely is in a very exciting time. Tremendous torrid pace of product innovation such as the iPhone and, you know, the rumored GooglePhone. It is just all over the place. Everywhere you look, flash is [Cramer interrupts]”
I’m thinking that SanDisk might have a piece of the GooglePhone business through msystems’ connections and its comprehensive product line-up. If not, that’s good news too. Like the iPhone, the GooglePhone promises to consume loads of flash memory.
The Google Way and Net Infrastructure
Google’s a bit different, even organizationally. Decentralized, with self-managing teams, Google lets its engineers run with interesting ideas.
Google has a number of ongoing internet-related infrastructure initiatives. For years, Google has been acquiring dark fiber, fiber-optic cable that is already in place but not in use. Then there are Google’s free WiFi initiatives in Mountain View CA and San Francisco and its Net neutrality Initiative. And then the impressive data centers where Google remains far ahead in the data-center race. Recently Google’s showing interest in the FCC’s 700MHz spectrum auction. And the list goes on
All these initiatives are related in loose kind way. More theme, than grand plan.
Google’s spending billions to build out its capabilities to not only run search engines, but also run a variety of Web services that encompass e-mail, video and music downloads and online commerce. And the next battleground will be Mobile with its potential $11 billion mobile advertising market. Nothing like $11B to focus the mind.
The Google Mobile Platform & the GooglePhone
The GooglePhone is probably best understood in the context of the Google Mobile Platform. Google is in the process of creating a software development platform for mobile devices on which its applications can run. This platform will deliver the mobile Google experience.
Which aspects of the platform are implemented, where, and with whom will depend on opportunities and partners.
Some prongs of the mobile strategy we’ve already seen or are likely to see, in order of difficulty/likely chronology:
– stand-alone mobile applications (gmail, maps, browser)
– bundled mobile applications (gmail + maps + browser)
– GooglePhone (iPhone/Treo competitor)
– mobile platform (Mac OS, Windows Mobile, Palm OS competitor)
– VOIP mobile communicator (GoogleUnPhone)
– wireless broadband
We already have many of the Google mobile applications which Google has been pushing with varying degrees of success.
Google purportedly has been trying to get its search engine, email and a new web browser onto as many different phones and platforms as possible. Part of the challenge is trying to convince phone manufacturers to implement Google’s preferred specs.
Google also has to convince the carriers to cooperate, not an easy task. Verizon reportedly decided not to integrate Google Search into its phones because Google wanted too big a cut of ad revenue. But progress is being made with some companies such as Sprint which is working on a nationwide WiMax network.
I think Google would just as soon avoid hardware, but it might be a necessary evil that Google needs to show off what it can do when the stars are aligned.
For the best Google mobile experience, Google seems to want phones with a camera, WiFi, 3G and GPS. Music is likely in there too, but these days music is software.
There aren’t going to be a lot of devices along these lines that don’t have integrated music. To compete with the iPod/iPhone, though, Google is either going to need to go with iTunes which means a meeting of the minds with Apple, or go another route entirely.
Other than Apple’s iPhone OS X, the mobile OSs out there leave a lot to be desired. Apple’s the only one who seems to have it figured out. There are rumors that Google has been working on its own Linux-based mobile operating system. If Google has come up with a sophisticated and flexible mobile OS, a lot of pieces could fall into place.
There seems to be plenty of evidence that Google has already approached Asian handset designers/manufacturers to handle the final design and fabrication of the GooglePhone. Names commonly mentioned are LG Electronics and HTC.
HTC is Taiwanese and designs and makes phones, some of which run MSFT Windows Mobile. This has led some to speculate that the GooglePhone might run Windows Mobile. That seems highly unlikely. Seems more likely that Google has its mobile OS waiting in the wings. If so, I can imagine Google ultimately using this OS to open a lot of doors.
As far as wireless operators who may offer the the GooglePhone, from the 2 August 2007 WSJ article, “Google Pushes Tailored Phones To Win Lucrative Ad Market”:
“Google has approached several wireless operators in the U.S. and Europe in recent months, including AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC, people familiar with the situation say. T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG, appears to be the furthest along in considering it, these people say.”
WSJ seems to have missed Spain’s Telefonica, which others include on the list.
SanDisk’s Potential Opportunities with the GooglePhone
Potential opportunities for SanDisk with the GooglePhone are embedded flash storage, SIM cards, and bundled memory cards. msystems’ business relationships may have given SanDisk an edge for both embedded NAND storage and SIM cards.
HTC specializes in designing and manufacturing world-class mobile computing and communication solutions and has in-house engineering teams to help with design and product performance issues. This is the same HTC tied to the GooglePhone, and the same HTC which has been designing-in msystems’ embedded NAND solutions into handsets for years.
MegaSIM was one of msystems’ promising products. MegaSIM is a high capacity SIM card with storage up to 1GB. The MegaSIM has been in trials with mobile network operators with a 2008 target rollout. Two of the mobile network operators (MNOs) reportedly seriously considering the MegaSIM are also two of the MNOs talking to Google about the GooglePhone: Orange and Telefonica. Also, the company building some of the handsets for the MegaSIM trials is — HTC.
Its also probably worth noting that a significant number of the rumored carriers tied to the GooglePhone– AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Vodafone Group PLC, and Telefonica are all GSM providers. A single hardware specification (tri or quad-band GSM) could support all of those providers. GSM = SIM cards.
In all likelihood, the GooglePhone will include a memory card slot. The iPhone doesn’t, but that’s Apple, not known for open systems. On the other hand, “open systems” is a Google battle cry.
Who might supply the bulk of the memory cards bundled with GooglePhone? Top candidate is the worlds biggest and baddest memory card supplier, which of course is — SanDisk.
If and when the GooglePhone is finally released, product tear-downs will occur within hours, just like for the iPhone. Then we’ll know just how innocent Eli’s recent “GooglePhone” comment really was.