It wasn't supposed to exist. "The" Google Phone. Then we (and others) heard otherwise. And now, Google isn't just handing this "sexy beast" out to employees, they're going to sell it directly. Everything has changed. Here's what we know.

• The Wall Street Journal says it's made by HTC and called the Nexus One. It'll be sold online, directly by Google. You'll have to get your own cell service (which suggests it's an unlocked device). Curiously, the WSJ says, "unlike the more than half-dozen Android phones made by phone manufacturers today, Google designed virtually the entire software experience behind the phone." Sounds weird, since they designed the look and feel of the software on the Droid and G1 too, except that our source had told us before that the current Android we know isn't the "real" Android. Also odd sounding: that name, Nexus One. But maybe not that odd.


• Google confirmed they handed out "a device that combines innovative hardware from a partner with software that runs on Android to experiment with new mobile features and capabilities and we shared this device with Google employees across the globe."

• A bunch of Google employees tweeted stuff like the phone is "like an iPhone on beautifying steroids."

• It probably looks like this:

• It's supposedly an unlocked GSM phone running Android 2.1, powered by the crazyfast Snapdragon processor, with an OLED touchscreen (no keyboard), dual mics (for killing background noise), and enhanced voice-to-text powers. It's gonna be alllll Google branding. And it's probably coming out in January. Which jives with what our source saw a couple weeks ago, a huge screen running a brand new version of Android unlike anything out there.


• We heard it was referred to, at least in some capacity in the staff meeting where they were handed out, as the "Passion."

If Google really is going to push this as The Google Phone (and it's not just a dev phone), it's hard to overstate just how radically this changes the landscape not just for Android, but what it means for Google and their relationship to the cellphone industry. The Google Phone would be a radically different model, a shift from the Microsoft one—make the software, let somebody else deal with the hardware—to the Apple and BlackBerry one—make the software and the hardware, tightly integrated. And Google's even taking a step further, by selling it directly, bypassing the carriers, at least initially. (Google would not be the first to sell a high-powered unlocked phone—see Sony Ericsson and Nokia—but neither them are, um, Google, and their well-known failures with that approach makes it even ballsier.)

It's a powerful message: to the companies making phones running Android, to the carriers, to developers, to consumers. Google is in this, to win. Everything has changed. You know, unless it hasn't.