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9/28/2007
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Google Unplugged: gPhone Or Not, Google's Going Mobile

Google's apps are smartphone ready, it's partnering with cellular carriers, and the company may bid on wireless spectrum. Connect the dots.

If Google develops its own smartphone--or should we say "when"?--IT departments will have to adjust to another wave of consumer technology showing up in the workplace, with or without their approval. This time, there's no excuse for getting caught unprepared. When it comes to mobile technology, Google's intentions are 90% clear. At the least, many on-the-go employees will be using Google software, so get ready.

Google has already developed a dozen smartphone applications, including mobile versions of its search, maps, Gmail, calendar, and RSS reader tools. Google software has been integrated with BlackBerrys, and the company has partnerships with cell carriers in the United States and abroad. There's a strong chance Google will participate in the FCC auction of 700-MHz spectrum. Connect the dots.

By all appearances, Google's just getting started. The company's searching for an executive to head its mobile business development in North America. The candidate, according to the job description, should have "a thorough understanding of the mobile vertical, both from a carrier and a handset OEM perspective."

Handset OEM perspective? That could be a reference to the rumored Google phone, reportedly to be designed in collaboration with Taiwanese handset maker HTC. Speculation has it that the phone would carry the Google brand and come with Google services and applications, perhaps running on a Google-developed mobile operating system.

Google isn't commenting, but the search giant's influence could hasten the transition to a more open mobile market, one in which service providers find it harder to tie customers to lopsided contracts, closed e-mail standards, and restricted Internet access. In an interview last week with InformationWeek, Dilip Venkatachari, a director of product management, spoke generally about Google's mobile strategy but declined to discuss future products and services. "The mobile ecosystem has multiple players, all of whom bring significant value," Venkatachari said. "The most important thing is for all of us to work together to improve the consumer experience."

For IT managers, "Google-to-go" holds promise and peril. Businesses can expect easier-to-deploy mobile applications, more choices in carrier offerings, and, possibly, lower prices for wireless services. Yet that disruption will make the process of choosing software and devices and managing them all more challenging than ever.

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