The GPhone – more musings on the Google/Orange tie-up.
Last weekend, the Observer wrote an article igniting a mexican blogwave of excitement about a possible Google phone. The article reported a visit to the Googleplex by “Snr Executives at Orange”. The article went on to suggest that the new device will be manufactured by HTC (long time Orange manufacturer partner of the SPV) and won’t be ready until 2008.
This industry does love a surprise, so in an attempt to excite and without any firm shred of evidence, I predict that the launch date of the GPhone wont be (as suggested in the Observer) in 2008, but in H1 2007!!! Maybe this trip was the latest in a series of Google/Orange meetings that stem from an unconfirmed approach that Google made to Orange last year following some spending on a number of interesting start-ups with a view to launch a GPhone on the Orange network, leveraging Orange’s distribution footprint and processes + their network intelligence (which includes an expensive Location and presence platform from Webraska)....more of that in a bit...
I firmly believe that Google has a lot of ambition in mobile. There are four foundations of evidence to Google’s mobile expertise and ambitions, three of which have been driven through quiet acquisitions over the last couple of years:
1) Android (acquired by Google in 2005) - Mobile hardware and network expertise.
Android, a stealth mode start-up was founded by Andy Rubin and Rich Miner. Mr Rubin is a product guru, who previously Co-founded Danger, makers of the Hip-top device and software which combines consumer hardware with network services in to an integrated communication, content and community experience. Mr Miner was a co-founder of Wildfire, a very cool and pioneering speech based voice assistant that although it was ahead of its time, was successfully acquired by Orange back in to 2000 for just shy of £100m. Miner went on to lead Orange Groups Advanced Service Development team before co-founding Android, selling it to Google and becoming Google’s Wireless Development and Strategy lead. So all in all, there some very close ties between Google and Orange, and a heavy dosage of experience and proven execution in marrying together smart software with mobile hardware.
Apart from those involved, no-one seems to have much of a clue as to what Android sold to Google. I took a punt at a guess last year but hey, what does I or anyone else know! If it hasn’t leaked by now, its unlikely that it will.
2) ReqWireless (acquired by Google in 2005) – Mobile device software expertise
The ReqWireless acquisition brought significant J2ME experience and a development library in to Google along with a suite of products which enabled mobile access to the web and email. The full product line, just prior to the acquisition included:
WebViewer - An HTML Web browser for Java-enabled mobile phones, supporting images, forms, cookies, and security
EmailViewer - A rich email client for Java-enabled mobile phones, including support for HTML-based email, images, and attachments.
GotMailViewer - A rich AOL® Mail client for Java-enabled mobile phones
HotViewer - A rich Hotmail® client for Java-enabled mobile phones,
ReqwirelessWeb - A Web development library for J2ME giving mobile applications the ability to fetch, manipulate and display HTML content on Java-enabled mobile devices.
ReqwirelessEmail - An email development library for J2ME that enables applications to send and receive rich email content on Java-enabled mobile devices.
This acquisition clearly stregthened Googles java expertise giving it a skill set capable of developing a Google mobile software client for non-Google legacy mobile devices
As Om suggests, the fruits of this acquisition can be seen in the sleek, elegant (and small) mobile Gmail app.
3) DodgeBall – (acquired by Google in 2005) Mobile Social Service expertise
Originally a social experiment in SMS, Dodgeball has flourished in to a US community of friends and friends friends, who use the Dodgeball platform to keep one another up to date on where they are (location, venue etc) who they fancy, and what they’re doing. There’s also the ability to get the address of somewhere, get nearby notifications of friends friends and send shouts to all your mates. The main barrier to this service is its usability – being based on solely on SMS, users need to remember commands, instructions and a short code.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all this value add was integrated nicely in to the user interface and application suite of a mobile device….?!
4) Mobile Advertising – very high on the Google agenda?
Google are clearly more capable than doing purely revenue share agreements with mobile operators on Adsense displayed on mobile users search queries. This is step one on the product roadmap and a quick and easy way to establish relationships, build trust and test the waters.
The product roadmap for Google is likely to get a lot cleverer - remember this is a company that generates the majority of revenue from Advertisers paying for placement in web pages. Google must get in to mobile, because CPM rates and the inventory of placement could explode. There are 2 billion mobile device users on this planet all going about their lives in a myriad of different ways, geographies, at different speeds, all with different interests, tastes, friends, preferences, ages and needs. Getting to this audience and helping these users to satisfy those needs must be a very important goal for Google because it represents such a huge revenue opportunity. Most people (apart from myself and my readers) spend a good proportion of their day away from their PC – taking the Adsense model in to mobile enables Google to monetize time away from the PC and improve the accuracy and relevancy of the Google customer experience. Adverts aren’t adverts any more – they become helpful and relevant guidance and advice.
So, the very long and not so short of this is that abigidea? thinks Google are most definitely up to somink - I would be very surprised if their efforts weren’t focused on creating a Webile 1.0 experience (the integration of Web 2.0 and Mobile 2.0 ;-) – a mobile user experience (be that OS, applications and device + operator network intelligence and web services) that marries location, presence, contacts, communication, content and community in to a rich user experience where contextually relevant advertising disrupts the established mobile operator business model of ambiguous voice and messaging charges, exorbitant (both in price and duration) monthly contracts, and non-open network and service infrastructure. And they may beat Apple to the launch!
Preivous post: Google acquires DodgeBall
Previous post: Google buys Android
Related post: GigaOM - Forget iPhone, think Google Phone
Related post: BusinessWeek: Google buys Android for its Mobile Arsenal
Related post: O’Reilly Emerging Telephony – Is Apple Working on a Phone with Google? (which kindly references abigidea?)