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All eyes are on Google, which is holding a briefing about its smartphone strategy tomorrow to coincide with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It is likely to focus on its own branded phone, the Nexus One, which is made by HTC but will showcase the newest features of Android and the Google user experience.

Although Google has said the phone will be a developer device, to stimulate the growth of the Android applications base, many analysts believe it will actually sell Nexus One to the public, potentially angering Android customers like Motorola (though not HTC, the Android market leader, which seems to be going back to its white label roots via this partnership).

Sources claim Google will even offer its phone via a subsidized carrier contract, with Android frontrunner T-Mobile USA. Leaked memos say that T-Mobile will only handle "billing, coverage, features and rate plans", rather than the phone itself, providing a 3G option for those who want a contract (from $79.99 a month for those paying $179 upfront for the handset). An unlocked version will also be available for $529, with the option to avoid a carrier contract by using Wi-Fi and VoIP.

While the new channel could help HTC fend off the new level of competition for its Android crown - with Motorola, Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson all joining the fray - it is hard to see why Google wants to become a handset vendor, especially with a phone and carrier relationship that is strictly me-too (apart from the fast 1GHz Snapdragon processor).

More interesting would be a genuinely innovative design from Google, that could shift the industry goalposts Apple-style. Among the rumoured platforms is a 'slate', to steal thunder from Apple's (presumably) imminent tablet launch.

This article is taken from Rethink Wireless.

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