Google: The Real iPhone Killer

The dust is still settling from the iPhone tornado that blew through a few weeks ago, as Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) and AT&T (NYSE: T  ) now bask in the glow of brisk sales of the combo phone and media player. But the debate is still fresh over the "revolutionary" new device, with many contending that the iPhone is merely a veiled evolution of an old regime.

If you're not sure where I'm going with this -- and how it connects with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) -- let me explain: The iPhone was heralded as a revolution in the world of cellular services. According to some, the enigmatic device was supposed to rewrite the rules of wireless services by putting the "true Internet" in your pocket -- not the limited, walled garden of content that carriers including AT&T, Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) , and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) currently supply.

But many are arguing that Apple and its exclusive carrier AT&T have hobbled access to Internet sites and content with a locked device restricted to relatively slow speeds when on AT&T's second-generation network. Developers complain about limitations not experienced on other smartphones that utilize Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows Mobile, for instance. And many argue that the $500-plus unsubsidized price tag for the iPhone should give users the privilege of complete control of its use and access to content.

So where does Google fit into this? Rumors say Google is contemplating a "GooglePhone" that would truly be a free-access device -- one that accesses open, ubiquitous broadband networks in the same way PCs can connect to Wi-Fi networks today. The thinking is this: An ISP or broadband provider doesn't dictate where and how you browse the Web, so why should wireless telcos? While Apple may be moving toward a more open Internet experience, Google wants to start there.

To get there, Google confirmed in a letter to the FCC that it would bid a minimum of $4.6 billion for 700 MHz frequency licenses in the upcoming auction if four conditions for open access, devices, and applications are stipulated on the spectrum. Google and Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) have long argued for rules that specify open-access wireless networks in a portion of the band, rather than having to pipe content through incumbent carriers -- at a price.

The debate has a long way to go, but if Google and other open-access proponents are successful in lobbying for changes in the rules, truly revolutionary wireless devices may succeed in making the iPhone a relic of a past regime.

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Fool contributor Dave Mock stays out of the middle of heated debates and just lobs contentious comments from the sidelines. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. He is the author ofThe Qualcomm Equation. The Fool's disclosure policy is open for free access for everyone.


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