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Google: Thinking Bigger Than Phones?

It's hard not to get worked into a lather over the prospect of a Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) phone. In so many ways, Google's entry into the space would change the competitive landscape.

Symbian Ltd. currently dominates the smartphone market with a 67 percent share, thanks to its strength in Europe. Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) commands a 14 percent share of the market. (See Microsoft-RIM Tie-Up Unlikely.) If Google can make even a small chink in Microsoft's or Symbian's armour this could be a blow for Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Palm Inc. Motorola has just introduced a new Linux platform, and Palm is working on one. (See Palm Cans Foleo and Palm Cans Foleo.)

While details of Google's phone are scarce, Unstrung has learned from a source in the financial community that the software is actually the really important aspect of the search giant's mobile plans. (See Google Phone: Out of India?)

Google is said to be working on a Linux-based mobile operating system for phones. This would bring Google directly into competition with Microsoft and Symbian. "I have confirmed it is a Linux mobile operating system Google will be rolling out," the source tells Unstrung.

The source says that Google is working on -- and has been demonstrating -- "powerful tools" for third-party developers that could turn the phone business into a "race between Symbian, Microsoft Mobile, and Google Linux."

Simeon Simeonov, a partner at Polaris Venture Partners , who first hypothesized that Google was working on a BlackBerry-like device that will run Java (and possibly Linux), suggested that the impact Google may have on mobile developers was one of the most interesting aspects of its possible entry into wireless.

For its part, Google hasn't responed to Unstrung's questions about the latest GPhone talk. The firm, however, has been very active in the broader wireless market recently.

The company went toe-to-toe with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and major carriers over the 700MHz auctions recently and mostly got its way. (See FCC Straddles Open Access Issue.)

Google also recently hooked up with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) to work on a Web portal for its XOHM WiMax network. The firm said at the time that it was "exploring other avenues" with Sprint. (See Sprint & Google: Max Headroom.) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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