Gartner VP Ken Dulaney says that in the short term, Google's online store and its relationship with HTC is simply a fulfillment deal.
"It's a third party that's fulfilling the unlocked phones," he said. "This is an HTC phone with Google content. It's exactly the same deal as the Droid. It's not a Google phone."
At the same time, Google's arrangement with HTC could change the dynamics of the contract manufacturing. Dulaney anticipates a bifurcation of the phone manufacturing market into high-end smart phones and everything else. For HTC, its partnership with Google represents another step on the road away from commodity manufacturing toward being a premium brand in its own right.
Longer term, Dulaney says Google could be extending its competition with Amazon beyond cloud computing services.
It would not be surprising to see Chrome OS devices in Google's online store around the end of this year or in early 2011. Also, Google will soon begin selling Google Editions e-books online and through through brick-and-mortar retail partners. Clearly, Google is moving beyond selling ads toward selling digital and physical content.
In addition, Google is laying the groundwork for the time when it can deliver digital content over "white spaces," the unused portion of the broadcast spectrum, which presumably will be less expensive than paying to use a mobile operator's wireless spectrum.
In a blog post on Monday, Google published a proposal to build a white spaces database that is publicly accessible and searchable, an FCC precondition for white space use. The purpose of the database is to provide public information about the frequencies that can and cannot be used in a given location.
"When the FCC voted to open the white spaces to unlicensed use in November 2008, it required that such a database be deployed before consumer electronics companies could start selling PCs, smartphones, e-book readers or other devices that used this spectrum," explained Google's telecom and media counsel Richard Whitt in a blog post.
It's a generous offer that just happens to align with Google's business interests.
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