Open Source Hardware: The gPhone

  GPhone by Google 
  Originally uploaded by Stella Lui.

I don’t recall who said this to me recently, but someone told me that internal debates are raging inside Google about the wisdom of getting into the hardware business with the gPhone.

That makes sense to me. Google is barely in the software business. Instead they mostly deliver services via the web and increasingly mobile devices.

But their web services are not that useful today on mobile devices. For example the experience I have using microsoft’s outlook products on my blackberry is still vastly superior to the experience you get running gmail and gcal on any mobile device that I have seen. It’s true that Apple’s iPhone does a terrific job with gmaps and that is clearly an early look at how great web apps will be when they are delivered on a mobile device designed specifically for them.

So it makes sense that Google wants to build a gPhone. When they do, I’ll probably switch from microsoft exchange/office to gmail and gcal. I’ve been wanting to for a long time.

But how does Google deal with the big changes to their business model that will come from being in the hardware business? How do they deal with the fact that they will now compete with Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Apple, and a host of other companies who have been making and marketing hardware for a long time?

I would love to see Google release the gPhone, market it heavily, deliver a great device, and then put the operating system software and hardware reference design out into the marketplace in a way that they continue to control the base platform but anyone can build and market a gPhone.

That way, they get the thing they want most, a mobile platform built specifically to run Google web apps, and get out of the hardware business, and build a bunch of strategic relationships with hardware companies who will work hard to promote their services.

I don’t know anything about Google’s plans for the gPhone. Although this article from engadget suggests that the gPhone is coming soon and that it may well be made and marketed by others.

It will be interesting to watch how this develops.