Of course, Google’s entry into the phone business is big news. But the sources I talked to with knowledge of the project say Google is not building a phone. The company is building a mobile phone operating system, as well as what technologists call a “reference platform,” a set of specifications for how hardware makers would build a phone based on that software. Google is also beefing up its mobile applications, and it is believed to be creating software to ensure those apps run smoothly on as many phones as possible.
In a way, that looks a lot like what Microsoft does with Windows Mobile and Symbian does with its mobile operating system. Yet no one really talks about the “Microsoft Phone.” Rather, there’s the Motorola Q running Windows Mobile, the Palm Treo running Windows Mobile and so forth. So maybe speaking of the Google Phone is a bit of misnomer. Maybe we should simply be talking about the, well, we don’t yet know who will make these phones, but say if it were HTC, we would talk about the HTC phone running Google’s mobile Linux.
Then again, there is the possibility, raised by some analysts, that Google could decide to brand or co-brand phones with some manufacturers. In such a case, there really would be a Google Phone. It would also be the first time that Google would be pushing a consumer device, and as some people have noted, it could create conflicts for Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who sits on the board of iPhone maker Apple.