Google has designed an Android-based handset that it intends to sell directly to consumers, according to multiple reports.
As recently as October 30, Google had flatly denied that it was "making hardware" or that it would "compete with its customers" by offering its own phone. But it would seem the web search outfit/world power was merely playing with words. On Saturday morning, the Mountain View Chocolate Factory admitted the existence of its own "concept" Android phone and confirmed reports from the previous evening that it had shared the device with company employees.
Google has not described the handset in detail, however, and it has not confirmed that it plans to sell the device.
"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," reads a blog post from the company. "This means they get to test out a new technology and help improve it."
Later in the day, the Wall Street Journal reported that the fabled Googlephone would go on sale "as early as next year" under the name Nexus One. According to the Journal, the device's hardware is being manufactured by Taiwanese handset maker HTC, and Google designed "virtually the entire software experience behind the phone, from the applications that run on it to the look and feel of each screen."
A secondhand source had previously told The Reg that 150 HTC engineers were working inside the Google Chocolate Factory, citing an HTC employee with knowledge of the situation. And for weeks, TechCrunch has said that a Google-built and Google-branded phone was on the way.
Little more than a week ago, Google declined to discuss the possibility of such a device with The Reg.
Today's news joins a flurry of recent announcements from the company that show a shameless desire to control as much of the interwebs as it possibly can. On November 20, it told the world that its coming operating system, Google Chrome OS, would limit all applications and all data to a Google browser. On December 3, it entered the DNS-resolution business, unveiling a service that resolves net-domain names through Google-controlled servers. And now, it has confirmed the existence of a Google handset.
The move contradicts a statement that Google made to Cnet in late October. "We're not making hardware," said Andy Rubin, vice president of engineering for Android at Google. "We're enabling other people to build hardware." Pedants can dissect those words however they like. Rubin was misleading the masses.
The Journal reports that Google will sell the Nexus One online and that users will have to purchase their cell service separately. That would indicate the device is an unlocked GSM handset, but it isn't clear what carrier networks with which it will work. In the US, AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM.
To put it mildly, one has to wonder what new Google partners Motorola and Verizon think of the company's so-called "mobile lab."
Last night, at least one Google employee Tweeted into the ether that all Mountain View employees had received a "Google phone" at the company's infamous Friday afternoon all-hands meeting. "Stuck in mass of traffic leaving work post last all hands of 2009. ZOMG we had fireworks and we all got the new Google phone. It's beautiful," she wrote.
The existence of the device was later confirmed by Cnet TV associate producer Jason Howell. He too cited HTC as the hardware manufacturer and confirmed earlier reports that the device uses a new version of Android. Howell refers to the OS as Android 2.1. Previous reports have referred to it by the codename "Flan."
Then came Google's blog post, which referred to the phone as dogfood. "At Google, we are constantly experimenting with new products and technologies, and often ask employees to test these products for quick feedback and suggestions for improvements in a process we call dogfooding (from "eating your own dogfood"). Well this holiday season, we are taking dogfooding to a new level," the post read.
"Unfortunately, because dogfooding is a process exclusively for Google employees, we cannot share specific product details. We hope to share more after our dogfood diet." ®