Rumor is that Google will offer for sale to the general public a phone based on the Android platform, real soon now. Here is what I hope they do. I hope they announce a slew of phones, not just one. That they offer a shop where you can pick any of N Android phones. In my opinion it would be a mistake to anoint one Android phone as more or less worthy than the other offerings. Further I think that if they want to break the tie between the phone and the cellular service they need to break the up the distribution channel in some manner. There are plenty of tiny electronics manufacturing firms all over asia who can build these things, but they can’t distribute them. No doubt Google wants to fix that.
I think they ought to announce a premier phone that sets a bar for these firms to aspire to, while also putting a bit of a fright into the other smart phone platforms. I expect that phone to have some Google branding juice. But what does that signify? Does it signal that Google is now a cell phone maker (in the eyes of consumers)? I hope not, I hope it only signals that the Google added value is inside (i.e. the proprietary applications). When Sony or LG makes an Android phone based phone they will want to put that have that bit of tatoo on their phones and then it certainly won’t mean “phone from Google.”
All this assumes that Google’s overarching goal is to make cellular internet access more of a commodity than it is now. That goal, to commoditize one of their key complements, is far far more important than having a profitable phone business. For that to happen you have to disrupt the distribution channel that currently keeps phones, cellular service, and long term contracts in a death grip. Building an alternate distribution channel is key.
Oh and, I’m wondering if the Apple product that is the topic of many rumors will be, ah, pliable.