Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ovum research fellow offers insight on looming Google phone

Jonathan Yarmis, Research Fellow, Ovum

NEW YORK, USA: Jonathan Yarmis, Research Fellow at Ovum, offers insight on the looming Google phone.

The biggest question for me [concerning a Google phone] is the business model. Google clearly is not going to sell this merely as an unlocked, unsubsidized phone at commensurate high price point (i.e., over $500). More disruptive than the phone itself is likely to be how they approach the business model.

Will they offer subsidized pricing via some advertising mechanism? If so, that could change the relationship between handset manufacturers, carriers, the platform owner and the customer.

Google has to walk a thin line between offering its own device and supporting the needs of handset manufacturers and carriers who are ultimately critical to the overall platform's success. Thus, this in no way kills the Motorola Droid or HTC offerings. In fact, HTC is indicated to be the manufacturer of the Google-branded phone and is likely to offer any and all of the technical capabilities on its own devices.

Given the lack of carrier subsidies and the fact that it's a GSM device, this is likely going to have much more significance outside of the US where GSM is the near-ubiquitous standard and where consumers are more used to the notion of acquiring phones independent of their carrier. This could be significant for adoption in emerging markets, especially if Google has some innovative subsidy plans to come.

This should be viewed in the context of Google's $750 million acquisition of AdMob. Their "sweet spot" is advertising and the ability to monetize user behavior. This to me is the business model story. Selling a high-priced device is not very interesting. Selling a device that's subsidized by being an advertising platform as compared to being subsidized by a carrier is the news here.

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