Google, the iPhone, and the coming earnings report
By MIGUEL HELFT
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Of all the iPhone’s features, none had reviewers gushing more than its Internet browser. It was the first cellphone browser that promised something resembling the experience of surfing the Internet on a PC. Santa helped deliver on that promise.
On Christmas, traffic to Google from iPhones surged, surpassing incoming traffic from any other type of mobile device, according to internal Google data made available to The New York Times. A few days later, iPhone traffic to Google fell below that of devices powered by the Nokia-backed Symbian operating system but remained higher than traffic from any other type of cellphone.
The data is striking because the iPhone, an Apple product, accounts for just 2 percent of smartphones worldwide, according to IDC, a market research firm. Phones powered by Symbian make up 63 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, while those powered by Microsoft’s Windows Mobile have 11 percent and those running the BlackBerry system have 10 percent.
The iPhone has taken the frustration out of browsing on a mobile phone, said Charles Wolf, an analyst with Needham & Company.
Other companies confirmed the trends, if not the specific data, observed by Google. Yahoo, for instance, said iPhones accounted for a disproportionate amount of its mobile traffic. And AdMob, a firm that shows billions of ads on mobile Web sites every month, said it saw traffic from iPhones surge drastically around Christmas.
“Consumers are going to demand Internet browsers” as good as Apple’s, said Vic Gundotra, a Google vice president who oversees mobile products.
Mr. Gundotra said Web browsers as capable as the iPhone’s could also prove a boon for developers of mobile software, who have long struggled to adapt their programs to different types of phones. As it does on the PC, he said, the browser could provide a more homogeneous “layer” for programmers.
“The reason no one considered this seriously is that the Web layer on mobile devices was terrible,” he said. Google has taken advantage of the capabilities of the iPhone browser to create a product, internally called Grand Prix, that it says provides easy access to many of the company’s services, including search, Gmail, Reader and Picasa.
Google, which developed the first version of Grand Prix in six weeks, is introducing a new version on Monday, just six weeks after the first one. That is a speed of development not previously possible on mobile phones, he said.
Google/GOOG will hold its quarterly conference call to discuss Q4 2007 financial results on Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time (4:30 p.m. Eastern Time).
The live webcast of Google's earnings conference call can be accessed at http://investor.google.com/webcast. (Logon early, if you plan on listening in! -- dmg) The webcast version of the conference call will be available through the same link following the conference call.
Full Disclosure: Long the shares of Apple/AAPL and Google/GOOG.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist