When Will Google Do Hardware?

Posted by Hitarth Jani | 4:08 PM | 0 comments »

The world of computer technology is an ever-evolving one. The companies that stick to their guns and only do what they feel comfortable doing, well, they don't last. It's the ones that adapt to the marketplace, adjusting to the prevailing interests of the populace, that truly find continued success. Google has done a fantastic job at this.

Take Apple, for example. Twenty years ago, it was pretty obscure to find someone using a Macintosh computer. While Apple still has a long way to catch up compared to Windows-based PCs, they've certainly made a lot of headway into the mainstream by offering attractive looking computers and other products. You simply cannot deny the stunning beauty of a freshly unpackaged MacBook, and let's not even get started on the absolute dominance that the Apple iPod enjoys. In some ways, Microsoft can also be thought of in the same way, adjusting the Windows platform to better suit our emerging needs. Windows Media Center, for example, was developed by Bill Gates and the rest of the Redmond, Washington-based team realized that most people are not inundated with spreadsheets and databases, spending much more time on their comptuers listening to music, watching videos, and sorting through photographs.

It's not a new development to see companies change their focus or expand their portfolio into areas that they, up until that point, had not previously explored. Apple entered the MP3 market with the iPod having never really worked on any portable electronic devices and look at how they're doing with that today. Apple is trying to do it again with the hotly anticipated iPhone, and we have no real reason not to believe that it will be a big hit for the organization based out of Cupertino.

Microsoft, a company that prides itself in creating software that everyone uses (whether they actually like it or not), has also recently taken a similar plunge by releasing the Zune portable media player. There are also rumors floating about that Microsoft is secretly working on a "ZunePhone", a media-centric cell phone for the masses. This is a clear departure from the more business-oriented Windows Mobile smartphones and Pocket PC phones developed by other companies.

So, where does this leave Google? Without a doubt, Google has grown to become one of the most impressive names to ever grace the computer industry, and what really sets them apart from everyone else is that they have never charged their customers for any of their services. Google is everywhere. I don't know about you, but I've come to rely a little too much on Google, and I'm not just talking about the search engine. From GMail to Google Maps, the company has amalgamated nearly everything you could possibly want from the Internet and presented it in the most digestable and usable form possible. In fact, they've spread their wings so far that they are beginning to invade on what was once restricted to installed desktop software.

Google Documents & Spreadsheets hasn't been quite as popular as they had hoped, but it does point toward the company's future directions. A completely online solution like that can, if executed properly, swallow up some of the income that Microsoft has come to expect from its Office package. Gmail and Google Calendar are definitely invading on the Outlook side of things.

Google has also produced a variety of applications designed specifically for the mobile environment. Gmail comes in a mobile version that is better suited for the smaller screens of Pocket PC devices. Google Maps have worked very well with KDDI cell phones in Japan, though they have yet to make quite as big a splash in North America. With all of this "software" development, Google is starting to look like the new Microsoft, so... you've got to wonder, when will Google finally take the next logical step and actually produce some branded hardware?

See, the thing is, it doesn't matter if Google is actually physically building these devices. Microsoft doesn't make the Zune (it's basically a rebranded Toshiba Gigabeat S) and Apple doesn't actually manufacture its MacBook (that's up to some ODMs in China and Taiwan). They just have a big brand presence and they've convinced Joe Public that they're behind the production. And they are, in a sense, because it's essentially their designs, created to their specifications. Google can very easily do the same, but take it a heck of a lot further.

Look at the Apple iPhone. Apple already knows that people are in love with the iPod and they already know that fanboys will lust after an interface that mimics Mac OS X. And so, they combined these two concepts, tossed in some new-ish innovations and a cellular radio, and out popped the iPhone. It's got a bunch of Apple stuff we've seen before, like Safari and iTunes, and that will be absolutely vital to its success.

Why can't Google do the same? There have been rumors floating around in the blogosphere for some time now about a possible Google Phone. Some call it the GooPhone, others call it the GPhone, but no matter what you call it, it will surely be a huge success if it ever comes to fruition. Google applications are starting to pop up in a number of different mobile phones -- certain Samsung handsets, for example -- but at this time, Google has denied that they are working on a phone of their own.

When Google first went public, people thought the shares were overpriced at $80. Today, a single share of Google will run you north of $500. And they show no signs of slowing down. They've expanded beyond the search engine. They've outgrown basic web applications. They're starting to infiltrate the mobile world. Heck, they even bought YouTube! Can you imagine if they mashed all of these fantastic innovations together in the form of some sort of handheld?

A Google phone would be stupendous with all of its crazy integrations. The mobile email application could be directly linked to your Gmail. Text messages could be replaced or merged with Google Chat. VoIP calls could be taken via Google Talk. The web browser could come preconfigured to work with the search engine, news, maps, and so much more. At one point, industry pundits and bloggers alike were absolutely certain that Google had developed a relationship with HTC, a company that is very well known for creating top-notch Windows Mobile-based handsets. HTC makes many of the Pocket PC phones for O2, Dopod, i-mate, T-Mobile, Cingular/AT&T, and others. What's more, it was said that they had already decided on Orange, a mobile operator in Europe, to receive the first Google-branded HTC product. It never did come to pass though.

I believe that it's only a matter of time before Google moves beyond web-based applications and into the "real world" with physical hardware. Microsoft did it with webcams, keyboards, mice, and now an MP3 player. Google can very easily do the same, because, as I mentioned above, Google appears to be the new Microsoft. The difference is that it is continually experiencing exponential growth, people like them because their stuff is free (and easy to use), and Google was bred in an online environment rather than an offline one. And everything is on the 'net these days.

Google. Where's my hardware?

Source: The TechZone