Get ready, because the gPhone is on its way. The buzz has been getting louder again over what the world can expect from the long-rumored Google Phone, and we may be hearing more from official channels as early as next month.
The gPhone could come through a hitherto unlikely source: Verizon. A person familiar with the matter has indicated to the Wall Street Journal that Google is courting Verizon heavily to carry the device once it hits the market in 2008. This is despite the two companies having sparred over the 700MHz spectrum auction—specifically, the open access rules. But when it comes to competing in the cellular market, Verizon is apparently willing to put aside its objections to Google… or at least consider doing so. Google is also rumored to be in talks with T-Mobile in the US, as well as Orange in France and 3 in the UK.
Google also plans to announce software within the next couple of weeks too, according to the WSJ's sources. The emphasis there is software—Google is (still) not manufacturing its own handsets, but has instead approached a number of manufacturers, including HTC and LG Electronics, to build a phone tailored for Google. Google is, however, rumored to be developing its phone platform based on Linux—this would be a result of Google's acquisition of a mobile software company called Android in 2005, which has since developed a Linux-based mobile OS.
The thing that will no doubt give carriers pause, however, is that the company hopes to keep the entire platform as open as Linux is, exposing every element of the OS for developers to tweak, modify, and hack as they please. That sounds great for developers, but not so great for carriers worried about security and stability. They're the ones who will have to support a crashing phone, after all.
Google has made major efforts lately to get all of its services working in some form or another on a mobile-friendly platform. There are already mobile versions of Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Search, and now Google Docs & Spreadsheets available through the web, with special versions of Google Maps available on certain phones (such as the iPhone and the Blackberry). According to past rumors, Google plans to take all of these, in addition to a VoIP-enabled version of Google Talk, and converge them on the gPhone.
As of right now, there is little doubt that the gPhone is coming. But as the details continue to leak, it's becoming more clear that the gPhone won't be the revolutionary device that some believe will compete with the likes of the iPhone. While the iPhone occupies a higher-end niche of the mobile market, Google hopes to get its gPhone into as many hands as possible in order to extend the reach of its mobile apps, and it can't do that by slapping a $400 price tag on its handsets. The gPhone's level of openness, assuming it can negotiate that with the carriers, will surely be more greater than Apple's upcoming SDK, however, so it will likely provide some major development opportunities for companies looking to get their own apps onto the mobile space.