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Google ready ring in changes to mobile sector

29 октября 2007

Google is on a mission to shake up the mobile communications industry, but it does not plan to change the world single-handedly and promises to “play nice” with the industry’s existing powers.

Google ready ring in changes to mobile sectorThat was the message last week from senior executives of the Internet search and advertising company as they prepare to unveil one of Google’s most important strategic initiatives for the next few years.

One part of the plan, rumoured for months and expected within weeks, is a Google-designed software-and-services “platform” for mobile phones designed to support a wide range of handsets. Eric Schmidt, chief executive, also last week said that the company would “probably” bid for spectrum in an important wireless auction to be held in the US in January, and the company recently launched a trial mobile advertising service.

All of these pieces add up to an attempt to breathe new life into the mobile internet business. “I’d say the fundamental issue is we don’t have enough innovation in the US market in particular in mobile,” said Sergey Brin, co-founder.

“It is really important to Google that there be lots of choices of devices, and networks be open,” added Mr Schmidt.

Comments like these have sent a chill through the US mobile industry. Google was the elephant in the room at the industry’s annual conference, which took place last week in San Francisco – the internet group may not have been represented there, but it was never far from the minds of the 15,000 industry attendees.

If it goes as far as to launch a range of Google-branded handsets – or at least an operating system for wireless smartphones under other companies’ names – it would pit it against industry giants such as Nokia, Motorola, Research in Motion and Palm, as well as Apple, the new kid on the smartphone block with the iPhone.

Perhaps most worryingly for incumbent network operators is the way that Google has agitated hard for carriers to open up the airwaves to third-party devices and services, using the upcoming spectrum auction as its main weapon.

That gave Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, the opportunity to take a side swipe at Google’s possible plans at the end of his speech at last week’s conference. “We don’t have plans to participate in the spectrum auction,” he told his audience amid applause. “At the end of the day, we think we may be broader in what we do than almost any company out there, but we think we have a core competence, and we think that the telecom industry and the service providers have a core competence.”

“What would it buy us to buy one piece of spectrum in one country?” asked Mr Ballmer. “It would do a lot to alienate the telecom industry and it doesn’t help us advance our goals to take some interesting technology and spread it everywhere.”

Google executives now find themselves in a difficult position: on the one hand they believe they need to act as a catalyst to force big change on the industry, on the other they realise they cannot do it single-handed and will need the support of many of the industry’s existing players.

Rejecting the idea that Google would set itself up as mobile carrier and handset maker, Mr Schmidt said: “There are a lot of other companies that are good at doing pieces of that.” Google will work with these companies, he added.

Google was not without friends at the wireless show. Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook, threw the social networking company’s growing weight behind the call for open networks.

Mobile is the next frontier,” Mr Moskovitz said. “In 2008 Google is going to make a really big move. We don’t know what it is but my bet is that it will be open.”

Источник: Financial Times

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