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Google downplays mobile phone rumors

updated 07:35 pm EDT, Wed March 21, 2007

Google: no phone in works

Despite wide-spread rumors to the contrary, Google today down-played rumors that it is developing and manufacturing a mobile phone, clearing the air of speculation that the world's largest company would battle Apple and its forthcoming iPhone in the intensely competitive mobile handheld market. Instead of producing handsets, to which several previous reports had alluded, the Mountain View-based company said it would be more logical to form partnerships with existing handset makers. Recent reports speculated that Google was shopping around an existing phone design to original device manufacturers in Asia.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a high-ranking Google executive in South-East Asia confirmed that building hardware would be a "dramatic shift" in the company's business model, echoing statements made by Google's chief internet evangelist. The company, however, remains intent on producing software for handhelds.

"At this point in time, we are very focused on the software, not the phone," the managing director of sales and operations, Richard Kimber, said. The Australian Financial Review quoted Kimber during his speech at the Search Engine Room conference in Sydney.

Google is keen, however, on porting its search and other technologies to mobile devices, but would likely not enter the ever-crowded and commodity-filled, crowded handset market.

The report notes that Google has made with manufacturers such as Samsung, resulting in its search software coming preloaded on certain handsets. Kimber also said mobile ads posed unique challenges but admitted that they are "extremely effective."

In a report to clients, London-based phone analyst Richard Windsor claimed that the company "came out of the closet" at the CeBIT tradeshow last week.

"Google has come out of the closet at the CeBIT trade fair admitting that it is working on a mobile phone of its own," Mr. Windsor said in a note titled "Google Phone: From myth to reality."

"This is not going to be a high-end device but a mass market device aimed at bringing Google to users who don't have a PC," the analyst continued.

Earlier this month, another US venture capitalist, Simeon Simeonov, also claimed that "a team of about 100 people at Google working on the Google Phone". Supported by a number of recent mobile-lated acquisitions by the search giant, the unconfirmed report said that Google's mobile device was modeled after a Blackberry, the report claims.

An interview with a Google exec in Eastern Europe also hinted at the company's mobile ambitions: Isabel Aguilera, head of Google's Iberian operations, said that the company "has been investigating" developing a mobile phone that works both as an Internet access device and as a way to extend Internet use to emerging markets customers.




by MacNN Staff

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