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Google employees testing new mobile device

Google's employees are testing a new mobile device that runs on the company's Android operating system, as the search giant continues its push into the wireless market and toward more direct competition with Apple's iPhone.
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Google's employees are testing a new mobile device that runs on the company's Android operating system, as the search giant continues its push into the wireless market and toward more direct competition with Apple's iPhone.

In a blog post Saturday, Google said the new device, dubbed "Nexus One" combines hardware built by an unnamed partner with its Android software. The free software is crucial in Google's efforts to make its search engine and other services as accessible on cell phones as they already are on personal computers.

Google handed the device out to employees across the globe so they could "experiment with new mobile features and capabilities," and give quick feedback on the new technology, said Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management, said on the company's blog.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported Sunday that Google plans to sell the phone directly to consumers, instead of through a wireless carrier. Such a move would mean Google would go head-to-head with Apple's iPhone and Research in Motion's Blackberry, as well as current makers of Android phones.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google launched its first Android phone in September 2008, the G1 sold by T-Mobile USA, made by HTC of Taiwan, which is reportedly making the new Google phone. It may be a GSM-based phone, which means it could work on both AT&T and T-Mobile's networks.

Verizon Wireless last month released the Droid, the first smart phone to run Android 2.0, and expects to launch another Android phone this year.

Executives at HTC, the world's No. 4 smartphone brand, were not available for comment. Google was also not available for comment. Google began sharing a version of the Nexus One with employees in recent days, the newspaper cited its sources as saying.

A photo of what may be the device was posted on a Twitter photo-sharing site by San Francisco blogger Cory O'Brien. The touch-screen phone resembles similar models from HTC, and supposedly also has a scroll wheel.

Google's Android phones have won attention in the mobile industry lately, with Motorola and Sony Rescission choosing to launch it with their new top models.

Analysts say the aim is to gain access to valuable consumer data that can be used to sell ads at premium prices, rather than to make money from direct hardware sales, as companies such as Nock or Research in Motion do.

Research house ID estimates the market share for Android operating software rose to 5.4 percent from 4.2 percent in July-September in Western Europe, a key market.