Google and Verizon Sketch Out Tablet Plans

Lending further credibility to reports that circulated about a month ago, Google has apparently partnered with Verizon Wireless for work on a new tablet device that may run Android.

That news was delivered by Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam in an interview published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, though no specifics or timetable were given.

Neither company was willing to divulge any more about the partnership or the device in question.

Designed to Scale

“If you source that piece, I wouldn’t disagree,” said Jeffrey Nelson, a spokesperson for Verizon Wireless, referring to The Wall Street Journal article.

“Sorry, but we’ve got nothing more to add right now,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Similarly, “Android is a free, open source mobile platform,” Google spokesperson Anthony House pointed out. “This means that anyone can take the Android platform and add code or download it to create a mobile device without restrictions.”

The Android smartphone platform was “designed from the beginning to scale downward to feature phones and upward to MID and netbook-style devices,” House told TechNewsWorld. “We look forward to seeing what contributions are made and how an open platform spurs innovation, but we have nothing to announce at this time.”

At least one other news report suggested that Verizon plans to release more details later this week.

‘The iPad Sits Right in the Middle’

Coming hard on the heels of Apple’s announcement last week that it had sold one million iPad devices in less than a month, however, news of the new partnership has sparked plenty of speculation.

Assuming the reports are true, the move could make good sense for both Google and Verizon, since neither company has a product portfolio it needs to worry about cannibalizing, Chris Hazelton, research director for mobile and wireless with the 451 Group, told TechNewsWorld.

Apple, on the other hand, has the iPhone and MacBooks, among other products, and “the iPad sits right in the middle,” Hazelton noted.

Chrome OS Instead?

Rather than Android, however, Hazelton is betting that the Google tablet will be based on Chrome OS, he said, noting that Verizon’s McAdam never explicitly mentions Android in the WSJ interview.

Such a tablet could have several advantages over the iPad, he pointed out, primarily by being “more like a computer.”

The iPad doesn’t have a traditional file and folder structure, for example. So, while it may be easy to author content, storage can be “cumbersome,” Hazelton remarked.

‘More Like a PC’

A Chrome OS device, on the other hand, would provide storage in the cloud, allowing users to access their content from anywhere, he noted.

A Chrome-based tablet would also offer a security advantage, Hazelton said, as well as providing a more computer-like environment for document handling.

The device could have USB ports and other features that “make it more like a PC,” he concluded, “where Apple is really trying to jam its device between two product categories.”

‘There Is No Guarantee’

Devices like the iPad do “look to be the next big bet,” telecom and wireless analyst Jeff Kagan told TechNewsWorld. “Apple seems to be successful with theirs at this early point. Google is next — they want to develop a product to cash in on their share.”

Of course, “there is no guarantee with Google yet,” Kagan noted. “They made their name on Web-based search engines, not a real live product that you can touch and feel.”

Google’s own Nexus One phone, for instance, is “struggling at this early stage, when many expected instant success,” he added.

‘This Could Be Big’

Partnering with Verizon, however, is clearly “a good thing,” Kagan opined. “Verizon needs this success as much as Google does. These are two large, strong, brand-name winners who both need a large success to punch their way onto the mobile map with these advanced devices.”

If the new device is as successful as market excitement suggests it could be, “this could be big for both companies,” Kagan concluded. Following Apple’s iPad, “there will be other successful competitors, and Google and Verizon make perfect sense.”

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