With all the dialog about the GPhone effort, starting with a “launching in two weeks” post 3 days ago until now, I though it made sense to see what facts existed to-date (“pretty sparse” would be an understatement), and what people were forecasting about platform, positioning and timing.
I think the article in the Wall Street Journal was, in this world of uncertainty, the most reasonable conjecture about Google’s overall approach and timing regarding the Gphone (and Google’s mobile aspirations). The article highlights were as follows:
- Google is focused on developing the software stack for the mobile phone, using Linux as its foundation
- HTC working on multiple form factors for consideration
- Launch timing is a potential 1H08 event
- T-Mobile is potentially the lead US carrier partner, with a desire by Google to also partner with Sprint’s 4G Xohm effort
- The strategic rationale is to extend their PC franchise leadership into the mobile search and advertising arenas
- The efforts so far are viewed as lacking the sizzle of the iPhone.
No real surprises here. Google is smart enough to recognize that working on a reference design and getting multiple manufacturers behind the effort is the only way for a company with no consumer hardware gene-code to succeed in this brutal market (they are avoiding the fatal flaw of Amp’d here).
There is no way for Google to match up head to head with Apple’s iPhone – that’s just not a winning playbook. I wouldn’t attempt to compete based on the device’s cachet/PMP capabilities. Think of all of the roadkill who tried that and failed (Creative, Microsoft, et al).
So where are the veins to mine to position the GPhone as a game-changer? Here are my thoughts on building a great value proposition:
Bring phone-based value-added GPS to the masses. Google’s first efforts to GPS-enable Google Maps are nice, but the real opportunity is to be the first person to bring a Telenav-like experience to the mass market as part of my data “entitlement”. I have been using the Telenav solution on my Blackberry 8800 for about 2 months, and I ditched my Garmin and use it exclusively now. If you want a transformative platform to drive new thinking in local search and advertising, is there a better starting point? I don’t think so…
Give me a browser that works well in both rich bandwidth and limited bandwidth environments – Opera is a great choice here, and their proxy approach will give you more intelligence/insight. I love the iPhone browser, especially when I am wifi-connected, but I want a solid performance in lower bandwidth settings, and Opera has the thought leadership here.
Learn from 7+ years of Blackberry history and fix your rich email client. Biggest thing that bug me: You have way too much dependency on the concept of a session. I can’t stand getting the re-authentication requirement when I go in and out of coverage. Blackberry championed the concept of spoofing the concept of a persistent session, not requiring it – steal shamelessly here and fix you bits. Other things to fix (speaking from my context as a user of your Blackberry client): enable click-to-call when you see a phone number in my email, support blackberry cut and paste functions, and give me a credible mobile calendar interface (it’s way too buggy).
Make the wifi handoff experience as seamless as the iPhone – maybe even give me full session mobility when it makes sense (especially in a voice-related session). I loved the pico-POP idea T-Mobile is championing (turning my wifi access point into a pico-POP in their network, if I have a dual mode handset). Help them make that a broadly implemented reality.
Statement of the obvious: Widgetize the phone experience – have both you and, most importantly, your carrier partner encourage supported platform extensions – T-mobile is a great potential partner, given their current US market share. Apple may drag AT&T across the finish line on this topic eventually (the latest news about AT&T’s crackdown on iPhone unlocking isn’t encouraging), but you still can be the first mover.
Make my mobile search experience yield a “great first choice” result – the 10 blue link model fails miserably, translated to mobile. Yahoo’s mobile search is beating you here today.
Deliver a great IM experience that integrates AIM (at a minimum) – leverage the AOL interop deal and deliver on the AIM community interface – Gtalk alone will fail to impress.
Proactively support VoIP – if it is a truly global product, give me Skype support Day 1.
Learn from the mistakes of others in your mobile advertising plans – a few targeted messages a day can get you 10x click-through – don’t use the current web ad models as your frame of reference. Mobile advertising, done well, can deliver real consumer value – I’ve see it done.
Give me better sharing between my mobile and PC experiences (Yahoo remembers mapping locations I use on my PC when I am mobile – you don’t).
Most importantly, sex sells – don’t ship a pedestrian form factor – the iPhone has set the bar pretty high, and people’s expectations of you, even managed, will still be pretty high.
Should be simple ;) I can’t wait to see what comes out of Google’s effort over the next six months (Both the results of the 700 Mhz auction and the Gphone launch). We need catalysts to drive change. The iPhone is a great start, but at its current price point and with a carrier partner still undecided on the degree of openness to support, we need the power of the Google brand to drive the whole mobile ecosystem to a new level.