Just when you thought it was safe to upgrade to a new phone, rumors of a Google phone resurface. The Wall Street Journal reported the search giant is on the brink of announcing its latest contribution to the mobile world.

According to the Journal, Google is expected to announce advanced software and services designed to pave the way for handset makers to bring Google-powered phones to wireless store shelves by the middle of 2008.

The Journal cited sources familiar with the matter in its Monday report. Google could not be reached immediately for comment.

Google's goal is to make applications and services as accessible on cell phones as they are on the Internet, according to the Journal. Google reportedly wants to make it easier for consumers to use maps, social-networking features, video sharing, and other applications on mobile devices. But at least one analyst said he is not impressed by the rumored plans.

Seeking Clarity

"I'm not so sure making applications and services as accessible on cell phones as they are on the Internet is the loftiest of goals," said Michael Gartenberg, a wireless analyst at Jupiter Research. "It's not so easy to access the services on the Internet. The Internet remains pretty inscrutable to a lot of people. Perhaps we should be aiming a little bit higher."

There are still more questions than answers swirling around Google's mobile plans. It is still unknown whether Google will provide services, an application framework, an operating system, or an actual phone, though phone hardware seems least probable. The Journal report simply cited "advanced software and services."

What is known is Google's maneuvers to strike a deal with both U.S. and foreign handset manufacturers to build a phone tailored for Google software. It is also open knowledge that Google has entered discussions with wireless operators in the U.S., Europe, and Hong Kong.

The Journal reported that Google-powered phones would offer the Google search engine, Google Maps, YouTube, and Gmail. That would replicate Google's move in the wired world. "Google's already done a good business of getting its applications and services on other devices, notably on the PC, without having to build a competitor to Windows and without having to build its own Web browser," said Gartenberg.

Mobile Ambitions

"It's clear that Google wants to be a strong player in the mobile arena," Gartenberg said. "What they are likely to do is going to be somewhat disruptive in terms of business model relative to what's existing in the marketplace."

The Journal reported Google is pushing to make phone software "open" right down to the operating system. That would open the door to developers to access tools they need to build new phone features and would indeed be disruptive.

"A lot of what Google does in the mobile market comes down to how much Google wants to spend," Gartenberg concluded. "Are they taking bets of hundreds of millions of dollars or bets of billions of dollars in size? That will play a part in determining what Google is able to do."