So the Google Phone Is Real

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Google (s goog) Phone! And no, I don’t mean all those Android-powered devices, but instead a Google-branded phone that’s made by an original equipment maker. The company has started giving away these devices to its employees, who started tweeting about it last night, and it had to make an announcement this morning. In a blog post on the Android Blog, Mario Queiroz, vice president, Product Management writes:

We recently came up with the concept of a mobile lab, which is a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities, and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe. This means they get to test out a new technology and help improve it. Unfortunately, because dogfooding is a process exclusively for Google employees, we cannot share specific product details. We hope to share more after our dogfood diet.

Amazing, crazy, why? Those were the first things that ran through my mind when I read that Google is actually making a device. This is very much a page out of Microsoft’s (s msft) playbook. Microsoft makes specification designs, and Google seems to be doing just that. Of course, just as Microsoft and its Zune came along to compete with all those Play4Sure MP3 players, Google can make its own hardware and thus compete with the same folks who are betting the farm on Android.

The company says it’s doing this for its employees, but why shouldn’t we believe it will start selling it to consumers? After all, Google has the brand and the means to do that. If I were Motorola (s mot), then I wouldn’t be happy, because now I’m going to be competing with a Google-branded device. I need to talk to Google about the rationale of this decision before passing judgment. I’ve fired off emails to Motorola and other Android supporters.

Reading between the lines, Google’s decision to release a device shows it’s worried about the fear of fragmentation of the Android ecosystem that we’ve often talked about. By putting its stake in the ground, the company is hoping it doesn’t make the mistake that Microsoft made by dragging its feet in releasing Zune and ceding the market to Apple’s iPod. The iPhone, despite the issues with AT&T’s pokey 3G network, as eloquently pointed out by Verizon in its ads, continues to sell like a monster. Google doesn’t have much time and needs to respond fast.

On the plus side of the news — maybe you can return those Droids now that Time magazine has put its hex on the device.