Google finally started talking openly about its mobile ambitions today: It announced its hardware, carrier, and software partners (including big names like Motorola, Samsung, Sprint, and T-Mobile), and told us that its “Android” mobile platform will be available to developers for free starting next week. But there are several important questions we don’t have answers to:
- Why would anyone want to buy one of these phones? It’s great that Google is opening up the phone to developers and offering its software to carriers/handset makers for free. But what’s in it for consumers? Will their phones be faster? What new things will it be able to do? Will it freeze less? Will it be cheaper? It makes sense to buy an Apple phone — Apple makes great hardware, and an iPhone is an elegant combo of iPod and smartphone. But what exactly can Google offer?
- Is Google building its own phones? We can’t see why they would, since it’s hard to imagine why Eric Schmidt would want to get into the hardware business. But Schmidt refuses to deny that Google is (or will be) developing its own ‘GPhone,’ or mobile hardware. His standard non-answer: Google doesn’t pre-announce products, but we’re not ruling out future products.
- How much will Google-powered phones cost? They won’t be free — Google says there won’t be a purely-ad-driven phone/carrier plan out any time soon. But will Google subsidise them in anticipation of ad revenue?
- What will Google-powered phones look like? We know Android supports a wide variety of handset designs, including big and small screens, QWERTY or standard keyboard configurations, sliders, etc. But will the GUI be nearly as nice as Apple’s? Will the phones look nearly as nice as the iPhone? Will Google phones support Adobe Flash — which has been trying, with little success, to build out its own mobile platform — so Web sites look the same on phones as they do on a computer?