Mention the name Google in cell-phone software circles these days and you're likely to get a lot of blank stares and awkward silence. It's not that these Silicon Valley startups have nothing to say about the world's largest Web search engine. The problem is, they can't. Many mobile-software developers in the Bay Area and beyond are hard at work cobbling together services and tools they hope will be packaged with a wireless operating system under wraps at Googleplex—and they've been sworn to secrecy.
Word's getting out. Among the companies jockeying for a place on Google's platform, BusinessWeek.com has learned, are Plusmo, a Santa Clara (Calif.) company that pulls together blogs and news items and sends them to cell phones, and Nuance Communications, a Burlington (Mass.) maker of speech-recognition software used in mobile directory assistance services. Plusmo is owned by Reify Software, and its services are already available on phones made by Motorola, Research In Motion, and devices that use the Microsoft mobile operating system. Nuance technology, on devices such as Palm's Treo 755p, lets users dial, dictate, and search using voice commands. Neither company would comment for this story.