Update: It might just be a VoIP phone.

Forgive us if we don’t take this one at face value.  Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch says there is a Google-branded phone in the works. They don’t have many details except that it will be heading to market in January, and that is only because it is taking longer than expected.  

Sure, they might be doing another level of co-branding like Microsoft is doing with Sharp on their Pink phones.  But they’ve already gone down that road.  Verizon already sells the Droid with Google branding and Tmobile has sold the G1 “with Google” branding since day one.  Expanding on that isn’t what we are talking about here.

What Arrington is talking about is a Google product, sold by Google with no other branding on it.  The OS won’t have to go thru carriers’ systems.  It will be maintained by Google.  Just like the iPhone is maintained by Apple. 

But Google obviously doesn’t have some secret high tech phone manufacturing facility somewhere in China.  They will likely outsource the building of the product to one of the mega factories that do this sort of thing, also just like Apple does with the iPhone – again, if this is true.

There’s just one problem: Google Android head Andy Rubin, who would know about such a product went on record saying that nothing like this exists just two weeks ago.

“We’re not making hardware,” Rubin said. “We’re enabling other people to build hardware.”

Now, Google has played a role in designing phones that have emerged with Android, such as the G1. For example, Google advocated the infamous hinge design on the G1 based on its desire to offer a phone with a five-row keyboard, Rubin said. That design was not popular with reviewers, however, and Rubin joked that perhaps that’s why Google shouldn’t make its own hardware.

But pushing for a design feature is a far cry from designing an entire phone, contracting with a manufacturing partner to build it, and working the distribution channels to get it to market. That would be “a fundamental shift” in Google’s business model, Rubin said, and one the company does not seem prepared to make at this time.

Obviously there is room for maneuvering here with words but the bigger issue is with handset partners. 

Google has somehow convinced just about every handset maker in the industry to jump on the Android bandwagon.  Clearly these manufacturers wouldn’t have signed their product line away to Google without a provision that Google wouldn’t be competing directly with them within a year.  At least, we’d hope not.

So, with all this in mind, we don’t expect to see a G-phone.  If anything, we would expect to see another level of Google branding on the next Android Uber-phone…or Tablet.



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