updated 01:55 pm EST, Mon November 5, 2007
Google on Own Phone
Google will not rule out the possibility of producing a cellphone under its own name, the company said today during a question and answer session regarding the Open Handset Alliance and its Android platform. Chief executive Eric Schmidt explained that while his company would not pre-announce any devices, the firm would also not "close the door" on the prospect of making its own handset at some point in the future. The emphasis today was on establishing a platform for other companies to build their phones and not any concrete products, Schmidt said.
The mention rekindles speculation about Google's involvement with hardware, which began early this year when a device nicknamed the Switch was rumored to be in the works. The device would have relied almost exclusively on a touchscreen and an Internet connection to handle common tasks. Leaks in more recent months have deemphasized actual devices in favor of software and suggested that any hardware on display was a proof of concept to persuade other companies.
A move by Google to produce its own device would put the company in direct competition with both Open Handset Alliance partners and those using one or more Google programs with other operating systems. The development would create a potential conflict of interest with Apple, as Schmidt currently sits on the iPhone maker's board of directors and is generally credited with influencing Apple's use of Google Maps on the iPhone.
However, the Google chief would not be drawn into making a link between Android and a potential bid in the upcoming 700MHz FCC auction, which would give Google access to a frequency useful for long-range wireless Internet access and a means of circumventing major cellphone carriers, which traditionally keep their networks and devices closed. Google has stressed that it wants open access and unrestricted software on the 700MHz band regardless of who wins the auction.