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Can the rumored gPhone beat the iPhone?

Robert X. Cringley wrote that two gPhones may be on the way to U.S. shores by the end of the year. But according to Don Reisinger, we should wait and see what happens before we call off the dogs.

Even though Google told the world last year that it had no plans of releasing its own hardware and would instead focus on the software side of cell phones, very few people actually believed the assertion.

After all, with the iPhone performing well all over the world and a whole new era of cell phones having been ushered in, why wouldn't Google try to get in on the ground floor and try to build a brand?

But for months, the company has been tight-lipped about any hardware and has told anyone who will listen that Android will revolutionize the cell phone business. But according to a recent rumor fromRobert X. Cringley over at PBS, Google is poised to release one of these devices by the end of this year, or early 2009.

Of course, Cringley didn't know too much about the device. "Here is what little I know, dropped in my lap this week by a loyal reader (you know who you are)," he wrote on his blog. "There are two gPhones slated for release with the first coming in September and the second probably not appearing until after Christmas."

"Given that the first is the high-end model and the second is cheaper, Google will probably expect to make as much money as possible on the higher-margin units at Christmas before revealing the budget model even exists. How Apple-like, eh?"

And while Cringley has rarely guessed right with his predictions, this one seems credible enough to discuss. After all, if Google does release two gPhones, can you imagine the impact it would have on entire industry?

As I've mentioned here before, the cell phone industry is an extremely competitive environment that few companies with no experience can adapt to. And while the idea of a gPhone coming to your cell phone stores may make some sense, it'll fail unless Google plays its cards right and realizes that what we really want has nothing to do with EDGE and the inability to unlock it.

Simply put, the only way the gPhone can thrive in the cell phone industry is if it capitalizes on the desires of consumers. Instead of wasting our time with 3G or EDGE, consumers want to be able to connect to home networks via Wi-Fi (which, according to Cringley will happen), but we also want some sort of VoIP client available to us so we don't necessarily need to waste minutes or cash using one of the cell phone provider's crappy service.

Beyond that, the gPhone, which could be produced by Samsung, needs to utilize the very best Android can offer. If I buy this device, I don't want bare bones functionality, I want to see Google push the limit of what cell phones can do and include all of those things that I wished the iPhone offered. MMS and third-party apps, anyone?

But most importantly, the gPhone will only be able to beat the iPhone if it's available on more than one carrier. When the iPhone was released on AT&T exclusively, the company set a dangerous precedent that shouldn't be overlooked. Beyond that, Apple lost an important avenue of growth by locking it down to AT&T and it's feeling the effects of it now with recent reports suggesting about 1 million unlocked iPhones are in the wild.

But if Cringley's source is correct, it looks like Google is already doing just that. According to the columnist, the online firm may be talking to both T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless to form a pact. And assuming this is true, what will that mean to Steve Jobs and company? Wouldn't it suggest that Google realized the mistakes Apple made with the AT&T deal and is trying to do all it can to stop the iPhone in its tracks?

Simply put, the future of the gPhone is in doubt. And although rumors abound about the possibilities, the chances of hearing anything about this device in the near-term are quite slim. But if Google creates a compelling product that learns from Apple's mistakes and allows us to do what we want, how we want, when we want, I think you'll see a whole new ballgame arise in the mobile space.

And if you ask me, a little competition may be good for every party involved. I just don't think it's time to write the iPhone off just yet.