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Google Phone to run on any network, highlights handset exclusivity

Google appears to be coming out with its own wireless phone, taking head-on its long-time ally but more recent competitor, Apple. And in a move that could influence the direction of phone makers and wireless carriers, Google's phone won't partner exclusively with one service provider, according to reports.

First reported over the weekend by TechCrunch, the phone, either called Google Phone or NexusOne, is expected to launch next month. It uses Google’s Android mobile operating system and will be built from the ground up by Google and a hardware partner. According to reports, it won’t be locked into one carrier like the iPhone, which runs exclusively on AT&T. A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email query over the weekend.

Such a device will bring more competition to the smart-phone industry, which is booming and with no real competition to the breakaway success of Apple’s iPhone. Part of the discussion in Washington over such a phone is how Google’s plan to make the phone available to any carriers – AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Clearwire, etc. – will play into debates about handset exclusivity. The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing wireless industry practices, including questions about how exclusive handset contracts affect consumers and smaller competitors. Take a look at this Q&A with regional cell operator Cellular South, which says its business is suffering from its inability to get the latest and sleekest phones that AT&T and Verizon Wireless do.

Google hasn't officially commented on the phone, but it hinted at the device on its mobile blog by Mario Queiroz, vice president, product management:

We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe. This means they get to test out a new technology and help improve it.

TechCrunch first reported about this phone one month ago, but after employees were handed phones over the weekend to play with, pictures and descriptions of the iPhone-competitors leaked on Twitter.

A Google phone also underscores how long-time allies Google and Apple have become among the most important rivalries in Silicon Valley. Google CEO Eric Schmidt months ago left Apple’s board, where he served for four years, in recognition that the two companies were competing more in mobile technology. Apple, which tightly controls its applications store for the iPhone, has rejected Google’s call-forwarding and phone-aggregation application called Google Voice.

Photo Credit: TechCrunch

By Cecilia Kang  |  December 14, 2009; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  AT&T , Apple , FCC , Google  
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