Maybe it's me; maybe it's a fanboy thing; maybe it's my desire to impose more text on screen about this, but when I read people calling an HTC HD2/Dragon/Passion device absent HTC branding "THE Google Phone" (now officially caught on camera, see above), I can't help but think that if we go back to 2007 and Steve Jobs had taken the stage at Macworld and pulled out an HTC Excalibur with Apple branding on it, even if it had an Apple OS, it wouldn't have been "THE iPhone" and it certainly isn't what Apple did or what we as consumers got.
"This changes everything" say many blogs. Certainly, for Google's Android partners, competing against the Google brand, and bank, and engineering team changes a lot. And if they sell it unlocked (assuming they put a radio in it that can support all 4 US carriers, including both AT&T and T-Mobile 3G, and Verizon and Sprint EVDO) it will change things for the carriers, and for users who are accustomed to paying subsidized prices.
Before Apple released the original iPhone in 2007 there was talk (read: hope) of Apple releasing it unlocked, and talk (read: more hope) again with the iPhone 3G. (TiPb even predicted that as WWDC 2008's "one more thing" -- and boy were we wrong). It sounds great and we gadget geeks love it, but the truth is unlocked devices coast $700+, as anyone currently trying to import an HTC HD2 or Xperia X10 are no doubt aware.
The iPhone became a phenomenon when it hit $199 and a bigger one when it hit $99 through heavy carrier subsidies. Next June/July when another iPhone comes along, current owners will again be livid if AT&T doesn't cut them a break on costs, even if they haven' fulfilled their own end of the 2 year contract again. Google could possibly try to self-subsidize with the intent on making back the money via advertising (or online services, though they traditionally give those away for free in exchange for the aforementioned ad revenue), and that really would "change everything" if it worked. (Hey, TiPb's joked Google should just give free cell service to everyone in the US. Then it's game over.)
This might be a great phone. It might be the best smartphone to date. But for an end user, how will it be different than if HTC simply released the Dragon/Passion/HD2 running Android 2.1?
So, unless the above is just an HTC shell for as-yet-unrevealed and totally redesigned-by-Google hardware (or Google just buys HTC like they're buying everything else), it might well be a Google-branded phone, but it's not "THE Google Phone", at least not in the way the iPhone was and is Apple's. (It's even being internally labeled the Nexus One, for Blade
[Clarification: I'm not commenting on Google or their phone initiative here, I'm commenting on the coverage. Google hasn't announced a Google Phone. As their blog (which we linked to previously) plainly says, they're running tests with a partner, aka HTC, device. It's the coverage that's dubbing it Google Phone and a game changer. At this point, based on the image, it looks like an HTC device -- like an HD2/Passion/Dragon in Hero wrapping. And that's fine. That's great. If it's sold unlocked and runs on standard GSM 3G, I'd probably even buy one just to have fun with, sans contract. Analogies to the iPhone and Foxconn are completely off base, however. Foxconn isn't selling dozens of other devices, and certainly isn't selling other devices running iPhone OS X. Apple produces "THE iPhone". So far, this is a really interesting Android phone packaged by Google (instead of HTC or Verizon). But it's not "THE Google Phone". I suspect that one, running Chrome OS and using only Google Voice and VoIP, is still pending, and that well could be the next game changer.]