My friend Sim Simeonov at Polaris Ventures has the inside scoop on the Google Phone project. Sim says Andy Rubin, founder of Danger and Android, has a team of about 100 people at Google working on a new cell phone. Google acquired Andy's company Android, and also acquired ReqWireless , a mobile applications company, and Skia , a company that specializes in rendering graphics on small cell phone screens, to assemble the core parts of the team. Google earlier announced a deal with Samsung, so it is pretty clear they are moving in this direction.
Sim knows many of the people involved and did the detective work to figure out what is going on. Read this excerpt from Sim's blog;
It is the Skia acquisition that ties together the Google Phone story for me. You’d bring a guy like Andy in just because he knows mobile broadly speaking. But you really wouldn’t need Skia if you weren’t planning to own mobile presentation, i.e., create a phone top.
So what has been announced so far about the Google Phone? Coming up to 3GSM there was a lot of speculation about Google and Orange marketing a phone together. The phone would have been manufactured by HTC–a Windows Mobile device no less. Most recently, in January, Google announced a partnership with Samsung where Google’s mobile services will be provided on select Samsung phones. Further, there are rumors that Google and Samsung will build a new phone, codename Switch, together.
Here is what I have learned from my inside source:
- Blackberry-like, slick device
- C++ core w/ OS bootstrap (some version of Linux?)
- Optimized Java running on the C++ core (similar to what Andy did at Danger)
- Vector-based presentation courtesy of Skia’s technology
- Many services, including VoIP
Sim Simeonov is a really smart guy. He was formerly CTO of Allaire Corp and has been a VC with Polaris Ventures in Boston for several years. Sim doesn't deal in rumors so I would say there is a pretty good chance this story is true. Sim closes his blog with some educated speculation on Google's go to market strategy;
The most interesting aspect is the go-to-market strategy. Apparently, Google is planning to build distribution relationships with multiple carriers by allowing them to minimize subscription and marketing costs. In other words, Google will market the phone online and carriers will fulfill.
Interesting indeed. Technology aside, I think this multi channel distribution approach will beat Apple's exclusive deal with Cingular. BTW, I use a Motorola Q-Phone, marketed by Verizon, built on Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0. It is a great phone and does a nice job with email and web browsing. But, I think it was the partnership of Motorola, Verizon, and Microsoft that has made the phone a success.
Two big consumer brand names going head to head in the cell phone business. This will be fun to watch.