Google Phone, fact from fiction.

Here are the Google phone facts: 

According to the WSJ, Google will unveil its long-anticipated plan to bring its software to cell phones within the next two weeks. The “Google-powered” phones are expected to make it to market by mid-2008. The ad-supported phone will have services bundling Google Maps, YouTube and Gmail, the operating system would be open to developers to build additional features.

Google executives have complained that carriers have locked up the market and stifled innovation in the U.S. telephony market. They may bid on 700MHz wireless spectrum, Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said last week.

Here are the Google phone rumors and speculation:

Unlike Apple’s iPhone, the Gphone probably won’t be an actual hardware device. Instead, it’s more likely to be a bundle of software and supporting infrastructure that allows a phone manufactured by someone else to access Google services, experts say.

Google will probably partner with France Telecom’s mobile-telephony division Orange and KDDI in Japan, says Stephen Arnold, author of The Google Legacy and a new book, Google Version 2.0: The Calculating Predator. Arnold has researched Google’s patents and found more than a dozen that relate to mobile telephony.

“There is going to be a Google phone as a reference device, probably more than one,” Arnold told CNET News.com. “They will hook into the Googleplex to deliver functionality that ranges from ‘search without search’ (information that anticipates what someone may be looking for), to mapping and calendar services. Google is positioned to move different ways in response to market behavior.”

 

UBS analyst Arthur Hsieh believes that Taiwanese handset maker HTC will ship 50,000 or so handsets by year’s end to developers with the Gphone operating system, according to a recent research note. That’s a sliver of the nearly 1.4 million iPhones that have been sold so far, of course, but it’s a start.

It’s likely the Gphone will be advertising-supported given that the company has filed a patent application for advertising-supported telephony, Arnold said. Not only has Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt expressed interest in the notion of subsidizing the cost of phones with advertising, but the company offers ads on its mobile applications today, said Greg Sterling, principal at Sterling Market Intelligence.

Look for applications like “search, mapping, communications like Google Talk instant messaging,” with ads, said Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research. “That’s their business model, selling ads.”

Don’t expect a fancy touch-screen interface that would compete with Google partner Apple’s iPhone and drive up the cost of the Gphone, experts said. Google may try to do a better version of the Windows Mobile device, only cheaper. If the iPhone is a Lexus, the Gphone will probably be a Honda, particularly if it’s supported by advertising.

Offering a low-cost or subsidized device would also fit in with the company’s strategy to leapfrog with wireless technology in emerging markets, analysts said. “There are going to be a billion or more mobile-phone subscribers in the next few years, and these are people who not only have never used a mobile phone before, but also have never used the Internet before,” Golvin said. “Their first experience of the Internet is likely to be on a mobile phone, not a PC.”

“I tend to feel it will be an operating system and they’ll partner with a handset company,” said Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land. “There will be a Google phone. It will be mini-computer-like, the same way that the Windows Mobile Device is.”

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