Home I Would Not Feel So All Alone, Everybody Must Get Phoned

I Would Not Feel So All Alone, Everybody Must Get Phoned

Apple obviously already has a phone. Microsoft has been rumored to be making one. So has Yahoo!. And, of course, the Google phone is supposedly just around the corner. You’re not cool if you’re not rumored to be working on a phone.

It’s clear that companies realize the mobile market is big and getting bigger. So where are the eBay phone rumors? Barring Apple, which is a proven gadget company, I think a phone from eBay might make more sense than phones from any of them.

Of course, eBay is not a gadget company, and eBay does not make a mobile operating system (like Microsoft), or control a lot of mobile information services (like Google and Yahoo!). What eBay does own, however, are PayPal and Skype — both of which are very well suited for the mobile world.

Over the weekend, Google published a patent filed in February 2006 for a mobile payment system called GPay. Duncan Riley theorized that GPay could well be the killer app for a Google phone, and would catapult them ahead of competition. “Whilst it‚Äôs certainly possible that the GPay Mobile payments system could well be platform independent,” he wrote, “given the very strong indication that Google is preparing to launch a mobile phone, GPay could end up as an exclusive GPhone offering, one that gives Google the jump over other mobile operators by enabling mobile payments natively from the handset.”

What sort of competition? Well, eBay’s PayPal, for one, which launched its mobile payments service in March. As Duncan Riley notes, Google would have an advantage over PayPal by being able embed their service directly on the Google phone. Mobile payments have been huge in Japan for years, and are just catching on in Europe, but have not yet really made a splash stateside. If Google and eBay were to lock horns, however, one could expect that to change.

But leaning on their mobile payments service isn’t the only reason eBay should think about creating a phone (or working closely with handset makers on new phones), the other is Skype. Third party providers like JahJah and Talkety have brought VOIP to the iPhone with specially designed web services, but neither is offered natively, so they still require that you log into the service before making a call. An eBay phone could have Skype built in, and switch to it automatically when using wifi. Skype already works with a bunch of phone makers on wifi phones, so building the capability onto a mobile phone isn’t much of a leap.


So does it make sense for an eBay phone? Sure. As much as it makes sense for a Google phone, or a Yahoo! phone, or a Microsoft phone. Part of me thinks that these companies should stick to what they do best: software and services, and leave the phones up to the phone makers. But even if it is too early to tell if Apple’s iPhone will be a long term financial success (my guess is it will be), it has certainly raised the mindshare of the company over the past year with almost non-stop press coverage, so it is harder to argue that a phone is necessarily a bad idea.

I doubt that a phone is coming from eBay, but a phone from a third-party manufacturer that ties directly with PayPal’s mobile service and Skype seems like something that is too obvious not to happen. Then again, with the recent Skype and PayPal outages, maybe eBay isn’t who we want running our mobile lives.

Who do you think should make a phone? Or are you just sick of all this mobile phone talk? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

1000 mobile phones picture from Gaetan Lee.

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