I have a dream: What “Google Wireless” could mean for Apple - Macenstein

I have a dream: What “Google Wireless” could mean for Apple

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

An estimated $15 billion chunk of the wireless spectrum will go up for auction this year when US TV channels are pushed into digital broadcasts, freeing up space that the more bloated analog spec required. One of the most interesting potential bidders was rumored to be Google, who had been growing increasingly worried that it might be left out of the growing wireless/internet melding that seems to be going on. Google, however, wanted certain provisions to be outlined in the bandwidth auction that allowed for more open access to a variety of companies and wireless devices. Google’s initiative, while somewhat popular, ultimately was shot down by the commission overseeing the auction’s rules, thus painting a bleak picture for Google’s involvement.

But that was then, and this is now (actually, that was yesterday, and this is today, to be more accurate). The FCC has now ruled that a full one third of the available wireless spectrum will be made open to allow for consumers to choose their own handheld devices instead of the traditional system where wireless companies are able to dictate which devices can and can’t be used on their networks, such as in Apple and AT&T’s controversial iPhone agreement.

The Dream

So let’s paint a hypothetical picture here. Let’s suppose that Google decides it DOES want to bid on this new “open standards” portion of the spectrum, and since Google can print money, let’s also assume they win that auction. Is there even a shred of doubt in anyone’s mind that come the end of Apple and AT&T’s alleged 2-year (or is it 5?) exclusive agreement to carry the iPhone, that Apple will not jump ship to the new Google Wireless?

Google’s ties to Apple are well established, and seem grow deeper with each billion the companies make. Let’s take a minute to fantasize at just how potentially Utopian the new Google Wireless could be. I envision it working similar to the way the internet is currently set up. Everyone can access the internet, and they can do so via a Mac, Windows, or Linux PC, made by any manufacturer, running any flavor of OS and browser they wish.

In a comparable wireless arrangement, Apple would be positioned to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of such a deal, as they excel at producing stylish and intuitive “must-have” handheld devices that would more than likely dominate the field. Google would want Apple’s latest must-have gadget at launch to help pull in customers and drive the hype machine. Apple has already proven they have no problem delivering in that respect. Google would in turn likely work closely with Apple to support new technologies that would make the blending of portable media and wireless communications all the more seamless, and desireable to consumers. You think visual voicemail is cool? Wait until you see wireless video chat with annoying rollercoaster and fishtank backgrounds!

As arguably Microsoft’s biggest rival, Google would be able to use this new platform to gain even more leverage with the consumer, and Apple would sell roughly 12 billion iPhones. Of course, the whole point of the open spectrum initiative is that in theory Google would not exclude anyone, although that does not mean that Apple might not be able to get to the front of the line for meetings. The ultimate end result would likely be that the Verizon’s, Sprint’s, and AT&T’s of the world would eventually have to adopt the same “open standards” approach as Google Wireless, and support these new “unlocked” devices in order to lure back customers. That is perhaps the the most exciting potential outcome of a Google entrance into the wireless world, and one that lifts the spirits of all gadget freaks everywhere.

The Nightmare

Like most dreams, my dream of a Google Wireless could quickly turn into a nightmare, like when Pee Wee was all alone… rolling a big doughnut and this snake wearing a vest… wait, nevermind.

First, if rumors of an exclusive 2-year AT&T deal prove true, that would be OK. Odds are it could take Google that long to get the infrastructure in place to get Google Wireless up and running. However, if rumors of a 5-year AT&T deal are true, then Google would be forced to move ahead without Apple, courting other hardware vendors such as Motorola, Sony, LG, etc.. Obviously, Google would need their support as well anyway, but giving them a 3-year head start could give Apple a tougher row to ho when it eventually does enter the game. Plus, what are the odds Apple will be able to convince AT&T to keep up with all the cool features Google would be letting its partners implement in their devices? The iPhone would run the risk of looking quaint and outdated if AT&T doesn’t want to invest the money needed to overhaul its system.

And of course, my Utopian dream does not account for the possibility that Google Wireless might be no better than the AT&Ts and Verizons of the world now. While I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, Google could look to secure customers (at least initially) through lengthy contracts, or it could try to push its own mobile operating system onto devices like Microsoft does. It is possible monthly plan costs could be the same as or higher than those of existing companies not offering the cool new (but ultimately unnecessary) features of a next-gen wireless network.

Let’s hope the dream becomes a reality

But I prefer to think of Google Wireless as Apple Wireless; a company where service and features are top notch, and the hardware of choice is the iPhone. Besides, maybe Google needs Apple to provide its infrastructure. Remember those rumors about Apple Stores somehow being cell towers for an Apple phone network? I think those folks may have been on to something! (Or at least ON something…)

3 Responses to “I have a dream: What “Google Wireless” could mean for Apple”
  1. Way Cool Jr. says:

    The thought of Google building a brand new next-gen network from the ground up DOES make one’s heart beat a bit faster. At least a nerd’s heart, like mine. Maybe if I exercised more often…

  2. Tracy says:

    Sounds like you’re assuming Google would do a subscription based service. I would think they’d go for a free (add-based) wireless internet. If that is the case, a lot of the points here become mute.

    I want to see the day when an iPhone needs to subscription to work.

  3. Rowlings says:

    Oh good lord!
    they better not go ad-based! WTF would that look like?
    “This call from your mother brought to you by the New Dodge. Come check out our new lease deals on the 2008’s!”
    I would think they just want to make sure their search and web apps are deployed on the devices.

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