Google is likely to release a mobile operating system and a suite of mobile applications that enable online services, not fashion its own mobile phone, according to industry experts.
Amid speculation from several news outlets and blogs, the key question remains: what cards will Google show for its mobile play?
"Thats the $64,000 question," said Osterman Research Founder Michael Osterman, adding that he believes the Mountain View, Calif., company will launch a softphone of some sort that could come as part of Googles Apps suite, giving Google a more complete unified communications solution.
Pointing to Googles deep infrastructure of search and archiving technologies, Osterman said he envisions a softphone—a program that enables VOIP (voice over IP) telephone calls from computers and handheld gadgets—to provide speech-to-text functions and the ability to search across the archive, along with the integration of Google Apps on a device.
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IDC analyst Karsten Weide said he has heard that Google has beefed up its marketing presence in New York to prepare for some kind of mobile launch. However, Weide doesnt believe Google will wield its own device because its too far afield for a vendor whose bread and butter includes search engines and applications.
"Its not impossible but it would be hard for them," Weide said. "The margins in that business are very thin, the competition is very tough. I have my doubts that its ever going to happen as a mass-market product."
Weide believes Google may be developing phones internally and showing them around as a launching pad for a suite of mobile online services.
To that point, Google has recently acquired two small social networking startups, Zingku and Jaiku, both of which are focused on the mobile space.
Like Twitter, Jaiku, which Google acquired Oct. 9, is a microblog, allowing users to send short messages to others in the Jaiku network. In a brief interview about the deal, a Jaiku spokesperson offered his rationale for the buy.
"Google is really going to move their mobile strategy forward, so if theyre going to introduce a phone, they just bought into the leading technology in that kind of niche with Jaiku," the spokesperson said.
"They wont make the phone; theyll likely subsidize it and may spec it," Enderle Group analyst Rob Enderle said, echoing the thoughts of many industry experts who believe Google would be unwise to throw its hat into the cutthroat mobile phone market, where rivals such as Nokia, Samsung and Apple are duking it out.