Google’s Interest In Mobile Computing

Google annouced yesterday that it would raise $4 billion with a new stock offering, the New York Times reports today.

The Times story largely focuses on speculation of just what the tight-lipped search titan would buy with the new money. The article suggests that the company will move into businesses beyond Web search and advertising. The speculation in the article includes buying web properties in foreign markets, getting into the telecommunications market, or getting into the content business.  The thinking is that Google will need to expand the breadth of its business in order to compete with Yahoo! and MSN.

Since everyone seems to be speculating, let me do a bit of my own.

The article mentions that there was some speculation about Google considering “a ‘Google phone’  to allow its search service to be accessible to mobile Internet users” and went on to mention that the company had recently acquired mobile software company Android, Inc., and along with it, Andy Rubin, who founded Android and was a founder of Danger, Inc. 

Glaringly absent from the article, however, was the fact that Danger, Inc. is the company that developed the exceedingly popular cell phone/handheld available through T-Mobile, the Sidekick II.

The Sidekick is a cell phone/PDA with text messaging, Web, instant messaging, and e-mail access. I bought one specifically for what it meant to the future of mobile marketing. The device definitely has a “cool” factor going for it, with it’s spin-out screen. But Danger has also done a superb job at product placement. At launch, they wooed young celebrities to use their product. T-Mobile weighed in with commercials featuring Snoop Dogg and other personalities. I’ve seen the product on Fox’s Arrested Development and it’s part of the story line of HBO’s show, Entourage.

The signficance of the hiring of Andy Rubin, a man with intimate experience with the Sidekick in particular, should not be underestimated. The stunningly well-designed Sidekick is the best example of the current generation of mobile Internet devices that points most clearly to the future. The future is a consolidation of all devices into one Internet-accessible device. The Sidekick II comes closer than anyone to doing that; the only thing it doesn’t do is play video/audio files, which, you gotta admit, is a major shortcoming. Yet the point still holds.

A “Google phone” may or may not be in the offing (and, by the way, Google properties work just find on my Sidekick, so they don’t necessarily need a “Google phone”). But at the very least, it suggests what direction Google thinks mobile computing will take.

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