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What gPhone?

Miguel Heft of The New York Times has some interesting info about Google's so-called gPhone:

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.

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.

I'm intrigued by this because I'm currently a heavy consumer of Google online services (Gmail, Google Calendar, and PicasaWeb). Obviously, Microsoft currently offers a number of end-to-end (the ends being "Windows," the Web, and "Windows Mobile") solutions for both consumers (Windows Live) and business users (Exchange/Outlook/OWA) and may thus seem like an obvious choice. It's honestly not that obvious. While most of what Microsoft does is excellent, I still prefer Gmail over Hotmail by a wide margin (functionality and performance) though the company gets credit for Outlook Connector, which is first rate. Calendaring is all Google, though that may  change in the next month, so stay tuned. (Conversely, Windows Live Contacts is about 1000 times better than Gmail contacts.)

Anyway, I'd like to see Google get into the mobile software market in a big way. It's mobile Web apps are excellent given the limitations of that market, but its few forays into custom mobile applications (Gmail on Java, Google Maps on iPhone) are sub-par. There's a lot of improvement to be made here.

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