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Coming in 2012: A Google Phone Not Based on Android

Stocks in this article: GOOG

What kind of approach would this be for Google in terms of dealing with the wireless carriers? I think this new Chrome OS smartphone would be treated as one of the current cellular (including LTE soon) tablets such as Apple's iPad or the Motorola Xoom, just to mention two of the most prominent examples. The Google Smartphone would be sold largely unsubsidized with no contract necessary. One reason this may be feasible is that the cost would be lower as I discussed below. I don't know if this means a $399 price point or whatever, but I think $299 could be within reach for at least a lower-end version.

It's pretty clear that an initial version of the Google Smartphone would have to rely on the existing cellular data technologies employed around the world: HSPA, LTE and WiMax. Over time, Google would probably also pioneer the white spaces technology, but it's unclear if that would make it to market by 2013 or rather by 2014 or 2015. My guess is later rather than sooner for the white spaces networks. For the U.S. market in the near term (2012-2013) it seems clear that LTE would make for a best-selling option given the strong network performance at 700 MHz on both the Verizon and AT&T operators.

What about voice? In this data-only Chrome OS-based Google Smartphone, voice would be pure VoIP using the kind of desktop-lookalike client of Google Voice in combination with Google Talk. This kind of offering from Google is way overdue anyway, it already being over 18 months since it acquired Gizmo5, so one would surely expect it in the Google phone. Carriers would just have to swallow the fact that they are being "reduced" to being a pipe provider -- but that's where they already are on the iPad2 and the Motorola Xoom, for example. As I pointed out in essays published already in 2003, however, there is nothing wrong or demeaning in being a pipe provider. Data is very important and the fundamental way to differentiate a carrier.

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