The past few months have seen considerable speculation about Google’s intentions with wireless service. They have had an active posture concerning the 700 Mhz wireless auction, wanting to set favorable conditions for their participation. Not everyone agrees with their wireless auction position, just ask Steve Largent, president of CTIA. The latest news is they are shopping a Google branded wireless handset to several wireless carriers, including Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile. Everyone is wondering whether Google intends to become their own wireless service provider, or just looking to extend their brand and value proposition into wireless with partners.
It’s inevitable that Google will have a stake in wireless. Like everyone else, they recognize that mobile and portable wireless is the next frontier for the Internet. Google wants to be just as successful with wireless Internet as they have been with the traditional web. Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, has said in the past that they view wireless ad placement as more profitable than their fabulously successful existing models. On the surface, it appears that Google becoming its own service provider is unlikely. It would cost billions, but more importantly, would take too long. What is probably more likely is Google working feverishly to develop wireless applications that exploit their search and ad placement technologies and partnering with existing service providers – somewhat analogous to what Apple and AT&T are doing with the iPhone. Such a relationship may be a little more difficult for Google because their potential wireless service provider partners are also hoping to exploit mobile wireless ad placement for themselves. But I suspect, those issues will work themselves out. The Google brand and cache are probably too enticing for everyone to pass up. The recent partnership with Sprint for WiMAX applications may be an early indicator of their intentions. The wireless future will certainly see Google, and in a big way.