UPDATED: Google to Pull a Zune, Go Head-to-Head with iPhone in Software and Hardware Next Year?

Google Android Delayed - Not Competitive with iPhone

UPDATE: Daring Fireball points out:

[This story] puts [TechCrunch's Michael] Arrington on the same side as the almost-always-full-of-sh*t Scott Moritz. On the other side: Andy Rubin, vice president of engineering for Android at Google, who just two weeks ago said Google would not “compete with its customers” and “We’re not making hardware. We’re enabling other people to build hardware.”

So either Mike Arrington is totally wrong or Andy Rubin is a liar.

Then again, Apple typically den

ORIGINAL: Could Google be "pulling a Zune" and going from software provider to integrated device maker, ready to take on the iPhone with a pure, straight up Google gPhone? That the latest... retread of the old rumor, though TechCrunch is basically singing a castrati-high "nailed it!" at this point.

Rumors of a gPhone, or Google Phone, predated Android, but instead of following Apple, Palm, and RIM in the integrated hardware/software model, Google decided to go the Windows Mobile path, create Android OS (though with a liberal Apache license) and let other hardware makers do their thing.

Microsoft did similar a few years ago, competing against the iPod with PlaysForSure software for a variety of different music player manufacturers. Then they teamed up with Toshiba, killed PlaysForSure, and released the Microsoft-only Zune. Needless to say, their previous partners were not filled with happy joy (and how many PlaysForSure devices do you see today, oh bitter-named irony?)

There's no indication, however, that if Google made a gPhone they would in any way kill Android for partners. Indeed, Nokia makes Symbian devices now that it controls (and is in the process of open sourcing) that OS, right alongside other manufacturers. But is it fair to be scared of Google now, having seen them decimate the competition in everything from search (anyone remember Alta Vista?) to turn-by-turn Navigation (remember those TomTom and Garmin stock charts, post Android 2.0 announcement?)

And is it even more fair when we consider that the tech community is realizing Android isn't as open as they once hoped? Casey at Android Central sums it up:

Why would I buy a Motorola DROID or Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 if I can get an official Google Phone built from the ground up for Android? How will companies feel if the Google Phone launches with 3.0 but every other Android device is stuck at 2.0? Will they continue to make Android devices? Google would be leaving the companies that backed Android from the beginning in the dust. Simply put, the existence of a Google Phone automatically makes third-party Android phones second-tier devices because Google's priority will shift to the Google Phone, all others second.

But back to the iPhone. One of Steve Jobs' favorite quotes is from Alan Kay -- ""People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware." Google bringing a first-party gPhone to the table would likely be the strongest competition yet for the iPhone. As much as Google's Android partners should be afraid, Apple should be more afraid. And they should -- and no doubt are -- working even harder on iPhone 2010 and the iPhone OS 4.0. And that's great news for iPhone users.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 20 comments. Add yours.

BBYM#IM says:

I can't wait for a better iPhone! Thanks android for making apple realize that they need to work harder! :)

Jersagfast says:

Hmmmmm.. gPhone?? I don't know about that one..

The Dave says:

No bad thing. Competition drives innovation. Android is coming on in keeps and bounds and that has got to make apple start pushing ahead with newer and better os versions.

Ratnok says:

This rumor has been debunked by Google several times over. You bloggers are worse than Star magazine sometimes. It would be nice to see the Cult of Apple admit for once (like everyone else in the universe) that the Droid is an incredible phone, Android is an incredible operating system, and competition can only press Apple to improve their own product which is good for iPhone users as well.

UntidyGuy says:

Palm tried to do this by splitting their company into the OS and the hardware side and look how well that worked.

mystic says:

@Ratnok
The Droid is definitely NOT an "incredible" phone: duff keyboard(s), duff media player, duff third-party apps; duff camera; and duff design. Yes, it's good in parts, but don't get carried away with all the Android hype. As for the OS, it's rough in places and far from intuitive for the average person.
Apart from that, I agree that the competition is hotting up and that Apple needs to address that. I suspect iPhone 4.0 will do just that.

dev says:

When Apple made their own phone after dabbling with Motorola, it was not a shock because Apple has a long history of integrated hardware/software designs. It is what Apple has always hired and developed talent to do, and it is what they want to do. Consequently, Apple is damn good at it.
Google, on the other hand, has a history of pushing out incredibly cool technology with rough edges and buffing out those edges in public. A diverse, open Android community allows Google both to play to that strength and minimize that weakness. A Google-branded phone would turn that on its head, forcing Google into focusing on the rough edges before launch even if it means sacrificing some technological aspect. That attitude does not seem in Google's DNA.
I am not saying that Google should be afraid of Apple,, but, unlike Apple, Google has never hired, developed, or even wanted to build polished mass-market products. Forcing forcing themselves to do so -- forcing part of Google to compete with Apple on Apple's terms -- is going to be a big culture shock. Such a culture shock typically ends up showing through in the final product.

Michael Denney says:

I wonder what iPhone OS 4.0 will hold... ponders

ahmed says:

i love android dont get me wrong but well the g1 was designed in google offices and look how horrible it was i think they should leave hardware to people who know what their doing and stick to what they know best awesome kickass software

Apple says:

I Know I can't wait for a better iPhone!!!!!!! Thanks android!!! Android u still s**k!!!

RON JEREMY says:

@ Micheal Denney RON JEREMY says it will be just a little bit sweeter koolaid so eveyone will keep drinking. Nothing to special. Fanboys and posers fall all over themselves in a rush to buy the latest thing from apple even if the only upgrade is an app that realeses a Steve jobs fart smell.

iDavey says:

Yeah, I don't see this happening.
As it keeps being stated, Google is a software company. Damn good one at that. That's their MO. That's their thing.
They are NOT Apple. Apple is one of those companies you see only one at a time. Sort of like Nintendo. They make wonderful software but give you that one and only hardware experience to go with it.
I'm with others (and this is coming from a G1 owner) in saying, the G1 was the "Gphone" and in design aspect, it failed. It's ugly...I hate the plastic feel...keyboard is okay, but not great (read:Sidekick Keyboard). Even if it was just a "test" device, the final product was horrible.
Yet, all and all...if they do make the Gphone and it comes out awesome in every way...well wonderful. But I think they should just let it go

precon22 says:

I completely agree with this article being as I has both phones I believe even tho apple has been around the phone market for awhile google has been making it's mark. Googlehis really just a software company and is second to no one BUT, I believe that google made a smart decsion they have an advantage , the let phone manufactures build the phones first and I believe they have a good idea what not to such as buliding crappy stuff like the G1 and more stuff like th HTC hero, I think google will be just fine And will over pass windows but will be either tied to apple or second the will never pass them.

fastlane says:

Google is really just a software company and is second to no one...

Oh, please... :roll:

frog says:

It would be an admission that the current process isn't working as they had hoped. To be honest, I'm not convinced Google has the talent to bring out great hardware. It'll probably just be a rebranded HTC phone anyway.

steven says:

I disagree completely and one need look no further than Microsoft as an example. Remember Palm? Well in the early 90's Palm was reigning king of the smart device market. It's only competitor at the time was HandSpring; which was as I understand it, essentially a spin-off from Palm. Enter Microsoft in typical David vs Goliath fashion with the introduction of the first windows-based consumer smart devices. Not only did Microsoft with all of its resources fail, it failed miserably. Many device partners were left scrambling to pick up the pieces. Only with the second attempt and introduction of the Ipaq by HP, did Microsoft begin to redeem itself. Fast forward many years later, and Microsoft is still in my opinion behind the curve; following in the footsteps of more desirable devices; BlackBerrys, iPhones, etc. Microsoft never took the route of making their own device, but I would expect a similar outcome.
That said, being good at one thing does not linearly map to equal "goodness" at another. Companies generally fail when they lose site of their strengths, in pursuit failed promises and competing on another's turf. Regardless of Google's size, it will eventually be its downfall if they neglect to refocus on their strengths. Companies like Apple have been at years before Google was even a twinkle in the womb. Apple was one of the original pioneers, and money does not substitute good old fashioned experience.

Dennis says:

Just to give Google some credit, it was their idea to add a magnetometer to the G1, in order to operate with Google Maps and Streetview, which is the basis for the recent augmented reality apps. Google was probably behind the Droid's $30 car dock as well, to go with Google Navigator. They have also pushed the idea of persistent virtual presence (or whatever they call it), were among the very first to optimize content for mobile browsers, and still offer the best online services optimized for mobile browsers.
It's possible Google has realized that they can do a better job themselves. It's also possible that they're going to push the idea of a phone/data device that is partially or completely subsidized by ads. Like Apple, Google is a visionary company, and they operate on a much larger strategic stage than Apple does.

Josel says:

I guess it's Google saying its useless to buy any Android device from now until our very own G-Phone (hello Moto!)

nihouma says:

"And is it even more fair when we consider that the tech community is realizing Android isn’t as open as they once hoped?"
Oh Rene, this statement is taken wildly out of context...please tell me that you meant Android would be more closed off if Google released its own phone, and currently isn't closed off?
Also, Google won't release its own phone, because different phones are for different people. Google created Android so there would be a good, modern mobile OS that could be used to search the web (they make money this way). Google makes the same web content available to Web OS, Android, and iPhone, because more money is made that way. Think of the millions of phones that wouldn't be made and sold if Google made its own phone, and think of the money lost...