Google phone rumors put damper on Droid buzz

Just when you thought it was safe to stop talking about the Droid invasion, one blogger has reported that a Google phone, powered by the Android operating system, is on the way.

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As if we weren't already buried in Android buzz.

A week after Verizon Wireless rolled out the Droid, a smartphone manufactured by Motorola and powered by Google’s Android operating system, one blogger is reporting that Google is prepping its very own Android handset. According to the estimable Michael Arrington at TechCrunch, the Google phone could hit shelves as early as the first months of 2010, just in time to mop up the post-holiday traffic.

Here's Arrington on the Google phone, which will reportedly be sold directly through retailers:

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They were long planning to have the phone be available by the holidays, but it has now slipped to early 2010. The phone will be produced by a major phone manufacturer but will only have Google branding (Microsoft did the same thing with their first Zunes, which were built by Toshiba). There won’t be any negotiation or compromise over the phone’s design of features – Google is dictating every last piece of it. No splintering of the Android OS that makes some applications unusable. Like the iPhone for Apple, this phone will be Google’s pure vision of what a phone should be.

This is potentially ground-breaking news, and it didn't take long before the blogosphere was bandying around Google phone rumors at a terrifying velocity. But let's take a step back. What would a Google phone really mean? Well, for one, it would be a major buzz kill for Verizon Wireless.

According to media tracking firm Flurry, more than 250,000 people picked up a Droid handset last week – a major-league kick-off, no matter which way you slice it. And early tests of the Droid have been pretty positive, with reviewers praising the Droid’s navigation capabilities, its full QWERTY keyboard, and its suite of web applications.

A Google phone, presumably, would run roughshod all over Verizon's plans for world domination. It would also add to the congestion in an already crowded market. Palm is busy pushing its Pixi and its Pre, while Apple is rumored to be rolling out a cheaper iPhone. Then there's the BlackBerry Storm, to say nothing of phones such as the Motorola Cliq.

Still, the Google phone, which Arrington says could be manufactured by LG or Samsung, would have enough cachet to cut through the noise. The bigger question is whether Google wants to get into the hardware game. In a much-discussed interview with the New York Times, Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein suggested that a good smartphone is product of synergy – something Google can certainly provide.

“The companies that will deliver the best products are the ones that integrate the whole experience — the hardware, the software and the services — and aren’t getting one piece from here and one piece from there and trying to bolt it all together,” Rubinstein said.

Of course, it's possible that the Google phone is only a big, fat rumor. Over at PC World, JR Raphael cautions readers to have some patience. "Here's the truth: Google may very well have something like this in the works," Raphael writes. "It strikes many in the tech industry as unlikely – but hey, anything's possible. The point, however, is that contrary to what many reports are implying, we simply don't know."

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