Google is expected to announce software and services that will enable handset makers to bring new phones to market by the middle of next year, the Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 30.
The news, in which the Journal cited people familiar with the matter, is a variance from original reports claiming that Google wouldn’t shed light on its mobile plans until next year.
The Journal said Google would not release an actual phone, but rather a software operating system and likely some mobilized versions of popular applications.
IDC analyst Karsten Weide agreed, noting that he is expecting something fairly pedestrian, a showcase of Google’s online applications such as Google Maps, YouTube and Gmail for the mobile phone.
“They’re going to open it so other developers develop applications on it and then they are going to sell advertising against that,” Weide told eWEEK.
Google declined to comment on or confirm anything in the Journal story, but mobile versions of traditional Google Apps will likely be the tip of the iceberg. This is because Internet companies far and wide are laser-focusing on the mobile and social networking markets to find green fields in online advertising.
The real forward-looking services are intersections of mobile and social networking services, and Google knows this. Consider that Google has purchased three mobile social networking startups Dodgeball, Zingku and Jaiku in the last two plus years.
Dodgeball, a mobile social networking startup purchased in May 2005, lets friends find each other from their mobile phones using location-based services.
Zingku and Jaiku, acquired this past September and this October, respectively, are mobile social networking service providers that offer the brightest hope of success for Google if it can seed its phone.
Zingku lets users create and share invitations or “mobile fliers” using standard text messaging, picture messaging, instant messaging and Web browsers.
For example, merchants, which Zingku defines as “anyone who has something to promote,” can create interactive “mobile fliers” and then e-mail a “zing-code” to their customers who opt to pull the flier to their mobile phone. The customer can zing the flier to friends they think may be interested.
Jaiku’s software enables microblogs, or short text messages used to update those in a social network on what’s new.
These applications might not seem like a big deal now. After all, of the millions of people who own smart phones, how many of them have even discovered Dodgeball, Zingku and Jaiku?
But that is immaterial. As we’ve seen from MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and just about any other social network, the user pick-up will be viral. If Google can just put a little bit of its cachet and marketing oomph behind these services, people will use them.
IDC’s Weide agreed that there’s no reason why Google’s mobile suite could not at some point in time include social networking functionality or services. Of course, rolling out the applications is the easy part and something Google has proven its mettle at.
What will happen if Google bids on spectrum as it has suggested? What if it can’t compete with the phone carriers, which are loath to allow their devices to any applications and services? What toll will privacy concerns have on Google’s bid for the wireless market?
Weide told eWEEK there is speculation that Google will get in bed with Apple for its wireless network strategy. Hmmmm. Is that why Google CEO Eric Schmidt landed a seat on Apple’s board?
All quipping aside, Googlers love Apple. During a keynote on innovation at Interop New York on Oct. 25, Matt Glotzbach, director of product management for Google Enterprise repeatedly alluded to Apple’s history of innovation, from the iPod to the iPhone.
What company wouldn’t want to duplicate Apple’s iPhone success coming into the market, selling millions of phones? Apple is a tough act to follow in the consumer space, so you can bet Google will put forth its best effort.
But will it be enough?