Surprisingly, it may be too narrow of a view to see Google’s recent movements as a push towards becoming a telephone company. Google managed to reinvent online search and advertising, so the same may be true of their aspirations with wireless and network technology. It would not be beyond the scope of their inventiveness to approach the wireless business from a fresh angle.
Google may be exploring the mobile arena for the possibility of expanding their advertising offerings into the cellular world. Some like, Scott Cleland the president of Precursor, are struggling to find the logic behind the G-Phone rumor. "Getting into the phone handset business or the wireless network business would radically change Google's business model," he said. However the mobile advertising market has grown tremendously from $60 million in 2006 to $275 million in 2007, with an expectation of reaching $2.2 billion by 2010. This type of growth does in fact warrant Google to explore and aggressively participate in the mobile phone and networking business. If Google simply wants to have a stronghold on those advertising dollars, then they need to develop a multi-prong approach in their dealings with the current mobile providers.
To cement their interest in wireless technology, Andy Rubin, the former co-owner of the popular technology creator Danger [and its popular Sidekick device], currently works at Google. Danger was a major player in the Web 1.0 era. Danger’s most accomplished project featured a flip out screen that transformed the way users interacted with the Internet, at a time when the technology was at its infantile stages. Many believe Rubin’s employment at Google signifies their work on a secretive G-phone. Presumably, Google has charged Andy Rubin with the task of creating the G-phone.
Google has already begun offering its own mobile applications through a partnership with Sprint. A Sprint customer can use Gmail, Google Calendar, and GoogleTalk through their mobile devices. Google and Sprint have also been in talks to offer their WiMax mobile internet customers the ability to search the web and interact with Web 2.0 social-networking tools. Google, an already active member in the mobile software arena, may use their acquired companies to create a phone comparable to Apple’s iPhone or even something well beyond the scope of that device.
Mobile providers have proven over the years to be just as stringent and guarded about their services, technology, and partnerships. It would be hard to imagine a mobile provider giving up much of the mobile advertising dollars to Google. They would only need to look deeper into the profits of the Adwords program at Google to see the vast potential of doing something outside a partnership. This may be the impetuous for Google to offer its own wireless solution. Before we go further, we should look at the key acquisitions of Google that could make them a strong player in the wireless, mobile market.
We already spoke of Andy Rubin, Danger’s co-founder. He began work at Google labs after Android—his startup company—was procured by Google. Android revealed very little during their 22 months of existence, only that they were a mobile application startup presumably developing software for a location-aware mobile OS designed by Rubin. Given greater ease of Internet access with mobile products, this would allow Google to greatly expand the real-world utility of its search offerings.
While the purchase of Android could be a precursor to developing wireless technology, the acquisitions of ReqWireless and SKIA indicate Google’s strong desire to have their own handheld device. ReqWireless creates mobile applications and SKIA produced a vector-based presentation engine that essentially renders 2D graphics on mobile devices. The 2D rendering graphics technology that SKIA produces could be the building blocks of the graphical user interface of a future G-Phone. Purportedly SKIA’s core can fully utilize Java2D and PostScript, with an approximate 300K footprint.
Google purchased Grand Central Communications on July 2nd 2007. Grand Central communications offers a unique and control friendly solution for mobile phone users. The company developed a service that merges phone numbers from various accounts, including voice mailboxes, into one single account. The service complements existing phone lines, like for those who have home, work, and cell. Basically the service allows users to utilize one central voicemail box to collect messages. The user can access voicemails online or from any phone, and they have more control over these messages. Users can forward voicemails to anyone, block callers, save caller’s information, and more. One phone line can take calls from any of the lines a user has connected to the service, which would be an attractive feature for many business professionals. The most unique feature allows users to listen in real-time to messages being recorded.
On August 31th 2007, Google announced its investment in a company called Ubiquisys. Ubiquisys is a femtocell developer, meaning it is working on technology that would allow wireless signals (for example, from a WiFi node and a cellphone) to link up for added signal strength and interconnectedness. While a mobile provider would use the tech to strengthen cell signals in user's homes, Google could use it to promote unlicensed mobile access, service which could help mobile phones drop their ties to providers.
We know Google has purchased and invested in many unique mobile software companies. To add to that list, Google bought Dodgeball, a mobile social-networking service. The purchase of this company adds to Google’s repertoire of exciting and functional mobile services. Google made sure to purchase a company that would eventually open the door to social-networking on mobile devices. Another mobile networking company Google has invested in is Fon, a startup that allows consumers to share their wireless access points with a wider network in exchange for money or network-wide access. If such a network grew large, participating consumers could essentially access the internet anywhere, regardless of the provider. Google’s most recent purchase in the burgeoning social mobile space is Zingku. Whose services let consumers share cell phone photos with others through texting, get online blog posts sent to their cell phones as text messages, and poll friends via text message. As social-networking grows in popularity, the move towards mobile social-networking seems the next logical step for a company trying to develop sticky applications in which to sell ads on.
The possibility of Google having their own phone escalates when analyzing their various acquisitions. The mythical device dubbed the G-phone is being spear headed by Andy Rubin. Under Rubin works a team of about 100 people reportedly focused on the device. It’s believed that Rubin is working directly on the OS of the device. Collectively, the “mashed up” mobile application companies (Android, SKIA, and ReqWireless) could be poised to work on the yet undefined project, which could be the G-phone. Early rumors suggest the G-phone will run on a C++ core with a linux OS bootstrap, and be similar in design to a Blackberry. As should be expected, the phone will reportedly run the G-talk software and be optimized to run Java based applications similar to the Sidekick that Danger produced.
Concluded in Goog-411, Part IV