Google plans smart-phone launch

THE internet search giant Google plans to sell its own mobile phone direct to consumers.

Called the Nexus One and made by smart-phone maker HTC, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, the phone will run on Google’s Android operating system – around which Motorola and other mobile phone makers have built devices. The Nexus One will be sold unlocked on a Google website for $530 (€367).

The internet search leader may be sounding a challenge to smart-phone makers like Apple. It marks a departure for the leader in web advertising, which has rarely sold devices directly to consumers.

Unlike Nokia or Research in Motion, which make money from hardware sales, Google, which recorded $22 billion (€15bn) in revenue in 2008, is looking to prominently place its software and services on a new breed of mobile devices and gain direct access to valuable consumer data. Analysts say the aim is to gain access to valuable consumer data that can be used to sell ads at premium prices, rather than to make money from direct hardware sales, as companies such as Nokia do.

Google launched its Android operating system for mobile phones in October 2008 and it is fast emerging as the most competitive rival to Apple’s iPhone.

Google’s Android phones have won attention in the mobile industry lately, with Motorola and Sony Ericsson choosing to launch it with their new top models.

Last November O2 began selling a new Android device from Samsung – the Galaxy Spica, or i5700 – exclusively in Ireland. It is priced at €99 for contract customers and €299 on prepay.

Despite Google’s success so far, it still has a long way to go to challenge the iPhone’s dominance. French mobile games company Gameloft said that it and other software developers were cutting back investment in developing games and other apps for Android.

“It is not as neatly done as on the iPhone. Google has not been very good to entice customers to actually buy products. On Android, nobody is making significant revenue,” said Gameloft finance director Alexandre Rochefort.

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