Of course We now know these were just test-applications for a new OS, not a new phone.
My colleague, Richard Martin, nailed the reasons why Google didn't build its own mobile phone.
It's also obvious that some insiders see Google planning to do something with spectrum. Google is making moves, plenty of which we have not seen, but others may have. What if all of Google's positioning around spectrum is a sign that Google wants to build a spectrum ecosystem rather than become a carrier? What if Google is building an Android platform equivalent for spectrum?
Such a move would fit into Google's existing mobile strategy -- create more open access, take power away from the carriers, and enable lots of new entrants. Earlier I speculated that Google might partner with Clearwire to help the upstart build a nationwide WiMax network. What if Google has several potential carrier upstarts in mind? Google could conceivable acquire all kinds of spectrum and then create a mechanism for leasing it to them. Thus, Google would create competition for the established carriers while leaving the dirty business of being a service provider to companies better positioned for it.
Either way, Google would win. If the effort works, great, Google has a controlling stake over new carriers and it has the means, i.e. spectrum, to make sure they don't close down their networks. If the effort flops, it will still put price pressure on the existing carriers as well as force them to play ball on Google's terms.
What do you think? Is Google planning to create its own ecosystem of new wireless carriers?