Google, the nearly $13.5 billion search engine major, is believed to be a fortnight away from the worldwide launch of its much-awaited Google Phone (Gphone) and has started talks with service providers in India for an exclusive launch on one of their networks.
Talks are believed to be taking place with Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar, respectively India's first- and third-largest mobile telephony operators, and state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam.
And that's not all. According to the report, Google also is preparing for a simultaneous launch in the United States and Europe:
Sources close to the development said a simultaneous launch across the U.S. and Europe is expected, and announcements would be sent to media companies in India and other parts of the world. U.S. regulatory approval, which is expected soon, is the only hurdle that Google is waiting to cross, they added. Google plans to invest $7 to $8 billion for its global telephony foray.
Anticipation for the Google Phone is building. Earlier this week Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, said that his company will likely bid on spectrum. The prospect of Google owning spectrum and offering cell phones is too tempting to pass up.
Now I don't think Google has any interest in becoming a wireless carrier, but I'm not so sure that it's not working on a cell phone. Many critics of the Google Phone rumors point to the fact that Google has, generally speaking, avoided trying to get into the hardware business.
Despite Google's tendancy to avoid hardware, the Google Phone could give the company two things it doesn't currently have. One, assuming the device is sold for a relatively low cost, it could give Google a means to spreading smartphone-like functionality in developing markets -- all powered by Google's software and services, of course. Such a low-cost device would seem to mesh with Google's mobile strategy -- targeting more eyeballs on the third screen and growing the mobile Web in developing markets.
The second thing the Google Phone offers is additional leverage with U.S. carriers. What better way to use spectrum to force the wireless carriers to open their networks than with a cell phone that consumers will demand -- and that will likely require more open network access to function. Think of the Google Phone as the cell phone equivalent of the Trojan Horse (the ancient Greek myth, not the virus).
What do you think? Is Google really working on a phone? Or is this just another rumor?