2007/11/12

Gphone: The future of smartphones

Google's recent announcement of its entry into the cell phone market may change the world or it may fizzle out and never result in a single retail Gphone -- only time will tell.

My vote, however, is that it will change the world.

I want a Gphone. That is, I want what I think a Gphone could or will be. I know it will be a good thing. I'm just not sure exactly why it will be a good thing.

One reason it will be a good thing is what I've previously stated: like the iPhone and like Gmail, the Gphone will raise the bar for all other products in its market. Regardless of the iPhone overhype and high cost, it truly is a fantastic improvement over the smartphones and convergence devices that came before it. Regardless of the fact that Gmail doesn't have the highest number of users in the email market, it did force the email market leaders to start providing much more email storage space.

In the dark and unenlightened ages before Gmail, Microsoft and Yahoo! provided 2 MB to 4 MB of email storage. Now Microsoft provides 5 GB of email storage and Yahoo! provides unlimited storage. That's thousands of times more storage, and Gmail was what forced Microsoft and Yahoo! to provide the increased storage. Gmail changed the email industry.

The recent New York Times article, "Cellphone Straitjacket Is Inspiring a Rebellion", presents a thoughtful look at why the timing is right for the iPhone and the Gphone. The Times article says:

But the question many are asking is why the tension now, in contrast to, say, six months ago? The catalysts are threefold, said Mr. Weiden: the proliferation of new technologically advanced mobile phones, greater bandwidth and increased competition. But mainstream consumers too are being conditioned to expect more, particularly after the debut of the iPhone which offers easy-to-use Web browsing, Wi-Fi capabilities and high-quality video.

Indeed, Shahid Khan, a partner at the IBB Consulting Group in Princeton Junction, N.J., said he believes wireless networks will go the way of the Internet, where closed communities like AOL once dominated, then later morphed into hybrids. Now services like AOL co-exist, albeit in a less powerful state, alongside open networks.

“The industry is really at an inflection point,” said Mr. Khan.

Another look at why the Gphone just might succeed is the ComputerWorld post, "Frankly Speaking: Game-Changer." In his post, Frank Hayes describes the impact the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) low-cost Linux laptop project has had on the world of inexpensive laptops. When the OLPC project was announced, most IT industry players were skeptics, cynics and naysayers. The CEO of Intel called the OLPC XO "the $100 gadget." Two years later, in addition to the OLPC XO laptop being available, the ~$300 Intel Classmate is selling well, the Eee PC is available for $250 in Taiwan ($400 in the US), and Wal-mart is selling Acer laptops for under $350. Frank predicts the Gphone Android project has a good chance of making an impact similar to the OLPC project.

It appears I won't be getting my Gphone in the next couple months. But I do hope that the combined forces of Google, Apple and others interested in a dramatically improved mobile computing and communicating experience are able to make the same kind of step change in smartphones that Gmail caused in the email world.

*****


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