The Washington Generals

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The Gphone launched in the middle of one of the most terrifying weeks in memory, and yet it somehow succeeded in sending a powerful message of change of the most opportune kind. Even as McCain threatened to scuttle the debates with Obama and Bush arranged a White House tea party to win acceptance of his lame duck plan, the Google wave of innovation continues to exceed expectations.

The Gphone doesn’t out-Jesus the iPhone, but it brings the inevitability of leapfrogging competition to the carrier space where Jobs has already uncorked the bottle and unleashed the genie. Within hours of announcing a 1 GB data cap on the service, TMobile was recanting like McCain after an over-the-shoulder whisper from Lieberman. The Android Market seems unlikely to roll back podcasting apps, and even if they do, MySpace Music’s rollout of a streaming iTunes suggests a tie-up app will be a no-brainer in short order.

But just like Chrome, the Gphone is not about competition with Apple but rather a radical approach to fast following as a strategic weapon. The Gphone is the Washington Generals to the iPhone’s Harlem Globetrotters, the almost-as-talented team that rides the same bus and always loses to the A Team. In fact, the Generals is the test bed for new plays, the vaudeville circuit for the new troops and aging veterans, the farm club that has to do what Ginger Rogers had to do with Fred Estaire, namely do all the steps while dancing backwards.

Chrome serves the same role with the browser, Gmail with email, and GApps with Office. They’re not meant to win, just raise the game play across the board. The Gphone will put a minimal pressure on the iPhone, but Microsoft has to make some big decisions to handle the Android platform. In fact, Google’s open source strategy may make it deliciously enticing for Ray Ozzie to integrate with the open premise of Live Mesh. With Apple already bringing push email to the iPhone via Exchange, the Gphone could serve as a kind of mobile Slingbox for streaming enterprise apps on the other carrier platforms.

The virtualization of the smart phone market would in turn create the opportunity for the explosion of cloud computing metrics that promises to turn the enterprise into a massive in-memory arbitrage engine. One where auctions are held in real time for every kind of information transaction, a transactional Tw*tter uber network where pricing is determined by a combination of supply, demand, and the marketing value of the user’s social cloud and how it can be leveraged to adjust the price of the acquisition.

That’s why we shudder at the events on Wall Street and the campaign trail, but pause to drink in the promise of the New Wave and the underlying message that what we don’t know will hurt us, and conversely that these elastic devices can keep us informed at the rate of speed that change requires for survival. Is that Sweet Georgia Brown I hear whistling in the background?

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