Google has a dream. One day, your phone will be free to be a phone, without carriers meddling with it or mucking about with your end user experience in any way. It's a beautiful dream, and one I've been writing about for two years now. An entirely data-driven phone would be ideal for so many reasons- not the least of which is the ease with which it could be used around the world.
But Android remains reliant upon traditional carriers to spread o'er the planet. Carriers are middle-men and the middle-man never appreciates when someone tries to cut him out. Google's VOIP service is too young and too small to carry a device on its own. But Skype has close to 700 million users worldwide. It is an established platform with footholds across the planet, in people's homes and with enterprise. Customers know the name and turn to the brand more often than they turn to any other similar service.
So a phone powered by Skype, using it to run calls and handle messaging? That could work. And Google is the right partner to make it work. Plus, the addition of Skype to Google's already robust portfolio of "free" services could hardly fail to help the Mountain View-based search engine's bottom line. Especially if it would stymie Facebook's ambitions at all.
The Skype buy is valued at $3-4 billion. Which might be too high for a young company like Facebook to afford. But Google has a war chest last valued at $22 billion. And they've already committed to spend a great deal of that on thwarting Facebook. The money is there- and it isn't being tapped. There's no good reason for Google not to make a move.
Even with Skype's help, a data-driven smartphone may be years away from launch. It is something Google has interest in, but it isn't an immediate concern. Fighting Facebook, however, is. And, if nothing else, the search engine would be foolish to hand their greatest rival that kind of power without at least trying to nab it for themselves.