The Wall Street Journal is reporting that an announcement from Google regarding their plans to enter the cellular phone market will be coming in the next two weeks. Amol Sharma writes in the October 30th edition of the paper that Google has been in talks with manufacturers and carriers about releasing handsets built around Google-made software designed to their Web-based services and applications to mobile users. Sharma reports that in the US, Google "has the most traction with ... T-Mobile USA."
The article also claims that Google is planning to make their phones as open as possible, giving developers and end users access to the deepest layers of the operating system in order to encourage third-party application development. "Openness" has been a hot topic as of late in the cellular world, with Nokia and Apple trading thinly veiled barbs regarding the openness of each other's handsets. Apple, of course, has been under fire lately for "locking down" their iPhone handset despite a burgeoning developer community that's extending the device's functionality via third-party apps. Apple has announced an iPhone software development kit will be available in February 2008.
Meanwhile, Sharma's article cites "people familiar with the situation" as claiming that Google-powered phones could hit he marketplace by the middle of 2008. While that takes a little bit of the excitement away from the two weeks' hence announcement of gPhone plans, it sets the stage for a very interesting '08 in the mobile world. Between Google, Apple, Nokia (with their whole Ovi mobile services ecosystem) and now Microsoft (buying a stake in Facebook), '08 could be the year of Mobile Internet in the US.