Most of the tech world now considers it a given that Google will be selling its own unlocked phone, called the Nexus One, to customers directly early in 2010. A few stragglers are still debating the finer points of the difference between Google working with handset manufacturers and carriers on a good Android experience v. them dictating the hardware specs and selling it directly to users. While they work that out for themselves we’re off to the next story – the Google Chrome OS Netbook (although we think Google has a few surprises left around the Nexus One, too).
Google has said from the beginning that they plan on working with select manufacturers to ensure a good Chrome OS experience for users when devices first hit the market next year. From an early FAQ: “The Google Chrome OS team is currently working with a number of technology companies to design and build devices that deliver an extraordinary end user experience. Among others, these companies include Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba.”
Most people assume that “working with” around Chrome OS means the same thing as “working with” around Android – lots of meetings to make sure the devices and software work together as well as possible. But sometimes those pesky hardware guys just don’t do things quite right. And when you’re competing against Apple, everything most definitely needs to be quite right.
That may explain why Google has, according to multiple sources, been talking to at least one hardware manufacturer about building a netbook for Google directly. As in Google gave the company a RFP with quite detailed technical specifications and has begun discussions on building it.
They’re not in any particular hurry and seem to be aiming for the 2010 holiday season, a full year from now. Our understanding is that Google intends to have the devices built, branded with Google, and then sell them directly to consumers. The only firm tech spec we’ve heard is that they’ll be mobile enabled, and likely tied to one or more carriers with a subsidy.
I’m dying to get my hands on that RFP and have been feverishly calling our contacts in Taiwan and China to see if we can get someone to quietly hand it over to us. In particular I want to know whether Google is going with an Intel Atom processor, the current leader in netbooks, or may be considering an ARM CPU. I’d be willing to bet one of our writers’ right hands that it’s ARM. And I’d even go out on a limb and suggest that they may very well be targeting Nvidia’s Tegra line. Those chips are outperforming Atom in every way, say some of the hardware guys we know. HD Flash video no problem (something the Atom can’t do), and at a fraction of the power usage.
What does that mean? It means next Christmas you may be getting a high performance Google branded netbook running Chrome OS for next to nothing. And if it’s running ARM, Intel is going to be freaking the hell out about it.
As an aside, if you need a netbook now, I’d recommend the Nokia Booklet 3G. It’s amazing, and you can get it for $300 with a 2 year AT&T data plan. Nokia may not be able to make phones anyone gets excited about any more, but that netbook is cool.