The media has been abuzz over the past 24 hours as the Wall Street Journal has reported that Google has begun presenting their phone strategy to carriers. While much of this information is not new, the fact that mass media is covering it, has caused new focus on the initiative.
Google’s plans appear to focus around making a new platform, marketed to manufacturers and carriers at the same time, to be branded by the carriers themselves. This is similar to Danger’s strategy with the T-Mobile Sidekick. Using a central platform, the hardware is farmed out to other manufacturers, and the carrier promotes the device as their own.
It appears that Google is poised to do this using Mobile Linux, specifically the Ubuntu Mobile platform. This software would finally run full-circle with Google’s strategy. The company is fueled on advertising and ideas, but Linux has yet to turn a dime for the company, beyond token gestures in internal software and their search appliances. Neither have dented Google’s profit margin significantly. Despite that, the company has touted their developer’s contributions to the Linux platform, as well as some tacit support for Ubuntu.
Both the Ubuntu Embedded and Mobile platforms are designed and marketed by Canonical, which itself is trying to generate revenue from its own success in Linux. Canonical has won massive followings in the desktop Linux arena, by promoting a Mac-like version of Linux that cuts the fat, while maintaining extreme ease-of-use. Unlike other Linux distributions, Ubuntu still fits on a single CD-ROM. Canonical has entered the mobile computing arena with the intent to profit through embedded versions of Linux that keep their ideals at its core. Google appears to be ready to back this initiative as well.
With Ubuntu on its side, Google appears to be beginning to develop both a mobile, and a potential future desktop strategy. Like Apple’s iPhone, maintaining a shared code base can come in handy should the company plan to launch a desktop operating system in the future. Utilizing shared code in the interface and core application code, much like Apple, Google can maintain platform independence offering consumers devices on a whole host of platforms. Now, Google appears to finally be ready to leverage its technical assets on technology that it can actually profit from, namely, royalties on inexpensive cell phones. Cell phones that can still be marketed for free-after-rebate, and Google’s services (not to mention their keep-it-free-to-the-consumer… ethics). Also, Ubuntu Mobile or Embedded, according to sources, is one of the few candidates of platforms that can handle AJAX at full speeds. AJAX drives much of Google’s web presence, from Google Maps to Gmail.
Ubuntu Mobile is targeted at advanced devices, and is targeting a mid-2008 release. Nearly every report and source points to a similar timeframe for Google’s first phone.