Google makes noise with new phone

Marketplace Staff Dec 14, 2009

Google makes noise with new phone

Marketplace Staff Dec 14, 2009


Kai Ryssdal: For most of us, if we want to search the Internet, we go to Google. You want to buy a cell phone, well, Google is probably not the company of choice. But it’s making noises like it wants to be. The company’s had cellphone software out there for a while now. Android, it’s called, and it can be used with a number of different handsets from a number of different manufacturers. But the word is out that Google may also be getting into the business of producing its own actual phone. Peter Rojas co-founded the technology Web site Engadget. He’s got a new site now called gdgt. com. Thanks for being here.

Peter Rojas: Thanks for having me on.

Ryssdal: I thought, and maybe it’s just me, I thought there already was this sort of Google phone out there. I mean they’ve got this software, don’t they, on a bunch of other handsets?

ROJAS: Yeah, about a year ago or so, the first, what people call the Google phone, came out running Android and that was a phone from HTC called the G1. And Google actually worked very closely with HTC on the software and the hardware on this phone, though Google wasn’t selling it themselves except to a small number of software developers. This is a phone that most people got from, here in the U.S., from T-Mobile.

Ryssdal: Right. And the thing that’s supposedly new now is that they’re developing some kind of Google only phone, yes?

ROJAS: Well, that’s the speculation. That they’re actually, I mean the phone that people have been seeing photos of on the Internet that’s actually still built by HTC. They’re still the people actually making the phone, but the speculation is that Google is going to sell this under their own brand, and try to actually sell it directly to consumers, which would be something of a shift from what they’ve done earlier.

Ryssdal: Why so?

ROJAS: Well because Google previously has been sort of more content to sit back and let other companies sell and make and market the phone, right. And this would be the first time that Google would be ostensibly the brand marketing and selling the phone itself. They wouldn’t be partnering with someone on it.

Ryssdal: And it’s not going to be tied to a specific carrier, right? So it would be, in the parlance, it would be unlocked, so you could go to any carrier you want and get service from them?

ROJAS: Well, from what we’ve been hearing is that they’re going to be working with T-Mobile, but yeah, that the phone would be unlocked, which means if you did buy it, you could conceivably run it on another carrier here in the U.S.

Ryssdal: I have to ask you this, though Peter, Google is, when you get right down to it, an advertising company. They get 95 percent of their revenue from those ads on its Web site. Where does this fit into the business strategy?

ROJAS: Well, Google is trying to get a foothold in the mobile advertising space, which is kind of where all the interest and energy is going right now. And we’re seeing smartphones become great platforms for people browsing the Web, using applications and things like that. And it’s also become a platform for serving advertisements. And that was sort of the original purpose behind Android in the first place was if people are going to start using the Web, and interacting with the Internet on their phones, Google needs to be there. And their concern is that the iPhone is so successful, especially here in the U.S., that Apple or somebody building for the iPhone might be able to sort of corner the market for mobile advertising. And Google can’t let that happen because that’s the future of their business.

Ryssdal: Care to hazard a guess for me when we might ever see this phone?

ROJAS: Well, I think that we might see something pretty soon. It was a little interesting for Google to give phones to their employees, and then expect that no one would talk about it. I think that was probably deliberate of them to build up a little bit of buzz and interest. I’d be surprised if we didn’t have anything conclusive by early next year. I mean the consumer electronic show is next month in Las Vegas and that would be as good as time as any for a new phone to come out, which people would get excited about.

Ryssdal: Peter Rojas. Co-founder of Peter, thanks a lot.

ROJAS: Thanks for having me on.

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