Mobile
Commentary
10/20/2009
05:48 PM
Marin Perez
Marin Perez
Commentary
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Google Should Not Make Android Phones

You've probably seen the reports that say Google is planning to release its own unlocked smartphone with the Android operating system. I don't buy it, and I also think it's foolish for Google to get into the handset business.

You've probably seen the reports that say Google is planning to release its own unlocked smartphone with the Android operating system. I don't buy it, and I also think it's foolish for Google to get into the handset business.First of all, the news comes from a technology analyst from Northeast Securities who said he has inside knowledge that Google will produce a netbook and smartphone using Qualcomm chips. The smartphone would be unlocked and would supposedly feature even deeper Google integration, as well as allow for open development. Being the maker of the device would allow the search giant to have the same level of control Apple and Research In Motion have over their respective platforms.

This plan it full of landmines that Google can and should easily avoid. Some would argue that the iPhone is so successful because Apple's tight control over every aspect leads to a great user experience - and there's a lot of truth to that - but Apple's always been about selling you boxes. All the iTunes endeavors have been ways to prop up sales of their hardware, which have incredible profit margins. But this has been in Apple's and RIM's DNA since the beginning, and Google's bread and butter is the search advertising business. Its current multi-vendor hardware approach allows it to stay above the handset market share battles while laughing all the way to the bank as Android gets more and more mobile users online and in Google's reach.

Additionally, there's absolutely no indication that Google knows how to develop a high-end smartphone that will draw in the crowds. Andy Rubin had lots of experience with the Sidekick, but not everyone thinks that horizontal QWERTY keyboard is the best form factor. Google's Web sites are all very functional, but most people aren't clamoring about how well these are designed. An unlocked device would also be a tough sell for many U.S. subscribers because it would likely cost at least $500 if it had high-end specs, and I wouldn't even see the point if they went with a cheap, mass-market smartphone that's not as sophisticated as phones like the iPhone, Hero, or Palm Pre.

The hardware push would likely cheese off some of its hardware partners at a time when the Android Army is gaining momentum. The Motorola Droid is already getting some cool teaser television ads (see below), and early hands-on reports suggest it is a beast of a smartphone. The Boy Genius said the Droid is "the Android device to beat, and easily the most impressive phone we've used since the iPhone. It's positively amazing." There's absolutely no reason for Google to shoot the Droid in the foot because it's definitely going to garner a lot of attention.

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