(Adds details, company responses)
NEW YORK, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Google Inc. (GOOG.O) has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in its cell phone project and is courting U.S. and European mobile operators, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
Anian, a Reuters company that tracks industry trends for institutional investors, reported last month that Google had engaged Taiwan’s High Tech Computer Corp (2498.TW) to design a Linux software-based phone for launch in the first quarter of 2008.
The Anian report cited industry sources as saying that T-Mobile, owned by Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE), would likely be Google’s U.S. partner with France Telecom’s FTE.PA Orange selling the phones in other markets.
The Journal said on Thursday that Google had also approached the two biggest U.S. wireless services, AT&T Inc. (T.N) and Verizon Wireless, in recent months to ask them to sell phones with Google service.
It cited a Verizon Wireless executive saying the company had decided not to integrate Google’s Web search tightly into its phones because of Google’s advertising revenue-sharing demands. The newspaper said the executive had not commented on a Google phone.
A person familiar with the situation told Reuters that talks between Verizon Wireless, owned by Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ.N) and Vodafone Group (VOD.L), and Google have ended without resulting in an agreement.
Representatives for Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and AT&T declined comment.
T-Mobile and Vodafone already incorporate Google search in their mobile Web service in Europe, while AT&T offers it as one of several Web search options.
“We talk to a lot of different companies and we’re not going to comment on our discussions with any of them,” said Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman.
Google was not immediately available for comment. The company has said wireless is an increasingly important market but it has not announced plans to build a phone.
It said last week that Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N) would feature Google services on devices for a new wireless network the No. 3 U.S. mobile service is building.
Google has also developed prototype phones and talked over technical specifications with manufacturers including LG Electronics (066570.KS), the Journal said.
Mobile advertising is still a relatively small market but advertisers and wireless experts expect this to change.
Yankee Group has forecast the mobile ad market more than quadrupling to $275 million in 2007 and eventually increasing to $2.2 billion in 2010, up from an estimated $60 million in 2006. Some experts are forecasting an even bigger market.
(Reporting by Sinead Carew and Paritosh Bansal in New York and Nicola Leske in Munich, editing by Greg Mahlich and Tim Dobbyn)
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