....Imagine your cell phone as a mini marketing machine. As you head into your car after dinner, a text alert pops onto the screen of your handset announcing the 9 p.m. lineup at a nearby cineplex. You choose the Jodi Foster flick "The Brave One," and a promo video for the next Warner Bros. release, a George Clooney movie, starts running. Afterward, more text appears, prompting you to launch the phone's Web browser so that you can click through to buy the movie's ring tones and wallpaper.
That kind of 24/7 advertising engagement -- on a phone, no less -- may sound like a nightmare. But what if you could determine the kinds of products you get pitched? Or when your flight gets canceled in a faraway airport, text messages pop up for the best hotel deals in town? No random insurance ads or airline deals for trips to places you never visit.
Best of all: Watch or read the custom ads, and your phone minutes are free.
For big cell carriers, that's the real nightmare. And it may be coming in the form of a Google phone.
Wireless-industry consultants and marketing executives with knowledge of Google's plans say it has been showing prototypes of a new phone to handset manufacturers and network operators for a couple of months.
Its plans have been kept top-secret, but Google is expected to tap a company on the Pacific Rim that specializes in mobile design and manufacturing to build a handset to its specs. Google could then apply its expertise in operating software and user applications, says Paul Catalano, a partner at consultancy RelevantC Business.
Google officials won't talk about phones, and industry sources don't expect one before the second half of 2008.
Still, Google has made it clear it has an interest in wireless. It is experimenting with wireless broadband networks in a couple of U.S. cities. In August, CEO Eric Schmidt announced....
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