Google Spy: Big Team Picking Up Phone
A Silicon Valley insider claims that 100 people are working on a new mobile device at Google (Nasdaq: GOOG).
Speculation about Google launching a device has been rife particularly since Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) unveiled the iPhone this January. Now, Polaris Venture Partners general partner Simeon Simeonov, claiming to have insider knowledge, has added a number of details about the Google plans. (See Google in Phone Search?)
In his blog, Simeonov says that ex-Danger Inc. founder Andy Rubin, which Google acquired when it bought Android in August 2005, has a team of around 100 people working on a device. The company further added to its mobile capabilities in 2005 by buying mobile applications firm ReqWireless and device graphics engine developer Skia.
In an interview with Unstrung, Simeonov says his inside source tells him that the company is working on a BlackBerry-like device that would run Java -- and possibly Linux -- and support services such as voice-over-IP.
Simeonov is not the only person in the industry that has caught a whiff of Google phone development rumors. "I've heard the same thing," says Ovum Ltd. analyst Roger Entner. "I think they're working on a phone."
Google itself wouldn't comment on what a spokesperson described as "rumor and speculation." Nonetheless, the motivation for Google is fairly obvious. The company makes the bulk of its money through ads, and wireless and mobile represent a growing channel to drive such revenues.
"A phone is one way of driving it and keeping it," says Entner.
Simeonov says that Google believes it will attract carriers to the project because it would be able to reduce the cost of acquiring cellular subscribers by handling the online marketing of the phone.
Some analysts, however, suggest that getting into the device business would be difficult -- even for a company like Google.
"While Google can do anything, entering the hardware business especially with wireless must be taken seriously," comments Gartner Inc. analyst Ken Dulaney. "It is very, very difficult to do."
The firm, however, does have some powerful wireless partnerships already established. Google has already been working with Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Samsung Corp. on mobile-related software. (See The Gorilla That Ate the Carriers.) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung