Mobile platforms don't spring up overnight. They take time to research, develop and hone. If Google really is going to drop a new mobile operating system into the wireless telecommunications industry, it will have a far-reaching impact. Much more so than if it were to develop one handset.
For Google to be shopping an OS and not hardware is the only thing that makes sense right now. Nearly all of its services and products are Web based, why would it suddenly start manufacturing consumer electronics? It knows better than to toe that line.
Instead, Google can license its platform to the carriers and existing OEMs. This will result in a wide range of handsets--rather than just one or two--that can use the OS, and in turn appeal to a wider range of people. I think the logic here is obvious.
Exactly what shape this new mobile platform will take, how it will work, what applications can be developed for it, and how advertising will parlay into the equation all add up to what will probably be the second-biggest mobile story of the year.