Why Google had to buy Motorola

Tim Bajarin / August 15th, 2011

At the end of the year, when I made my predictions for the New Year, I stated that I believed Google would buy Motorola Mobile. And last week, Ben wrote here in Tech.Pinions about why he thought Google should buy Motorola. We had no inside information on this. But as we have studied how a complete eco system of hardware, software and services are critical to the success of a company bringing out tablets and smart phones, it became pretty clear to us last year that Google, at some point, was going to have to buy a hand set maker if they really wanted to control their destiny and the destiny of Android.

With today’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility group by Google, Google has now closed the loop on building out and controlling an entire eco system of hardware, software and services. With it they can now drive Android in the direction they see fit and innovate in all three areas. Like Apple, they now own the hardware, software and services and can become an even greater force in the future of mobile products.

In his comments on the acquisition, Google CEO Larry Page stated that part of the reason they did the deal was to also gain access to Motorola’s patent pool.

This could have an impact on the suit against Motorola as a starter.
And depending on the patents, it could also help them in the multitude of legal suit against Android out there as well, although it is not clear how much Motorola Mobile has that would related directly to these other Android suits.

But as important as this is for Google and Motorola, it is highly problematic for Google’s partners. Now HTC, Samsung and other licensees will be competing directly with Google/Motorola. And this leaves a lot of big questions on the table. For example, Google uses a lead partner with major new versions of Android. We assume it will now always be Motorola? If so, how does that affect the other licensees?

And, although they claim Android will continue to be open, just how much of an inside position will Motorola Mobility have over the competitors? I have already fielded multiple calls from clients who license Android who are, how do I put this, “concerned” about this news.

I believe that the major fall out from this is that there is now room for a third mobile OS to come out that would give vendors a broad solution they can use without having to compete with Google/Motorola. If I were Microsoft I would be touting Windows Mobile as an alternative.

However, here is a more interesting suggestion. If I were HP and Todd Bradley, I would immediately license the Palm Web OS as an alterative. This is by far the best Mobile OS besides Apple’s IOS on the market and it could become of great interest to Android licensees who feel threatened by this move by Google.

There are still a lot of other questions about this deal, like how will they deal with two distinct cultures and who drives the future of Android given Motorola’s greater experience in mobile then Google has?

But no matter how this turns out, we will mark today as the day that the mobile world changed forever as Google has begun to rewrite their history again.

Further Reading:
Why Microsoft WILL Buy Nokia

Also Read:

Google: Set Top Box King?

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.
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  • Paul Thompson

    I disagree that this is a problem for HTC, Samsung and the likes. Statements from Google and these competitors already demonstrate that everyone knows this isn’t about Google becoming a player in the Android hardware world – this is about patents, and only patents.

    I expect Google will keep the Android hardware development within MMI at quite an arms length as to not alienate the other manufacturers.

    Well done, Google! 🙂

    As per your suggestion about HP licensing webOS, I completely agree that would be a huge win for HP. I’ve been saying for years that the biggest mistake Palm made with webOS (other then being 5 years late with putting out a modern mobile OS) is that they kept it proprietary.

    HP should not only license it, but do so in a freebie way like Google does with Android. I think even as late into the game as webOS would be to properly compete with Apple and Android, I think they could still jump in and do just fine. I also think that the smartphone and tablet market is plenty large enough to have another player.

    HP just doesn’t have a prayer if they try to put webOS up against Android and Apple as the sole manufacturer.

    • Yacko

      Public statements. To play nice. Who knows what knives are out behind the scenes?

    • Anonymous

      The OEMs were already a little irritated that Moto got first crack at Honeycomb for the Xoom (not that it did them much good). Now this makes Moto’s MFN status official.

      But ya gotta love the new name: Gotorola!

  • The MSFT play is obvious, especially given the large installed base Windows has in desktops, laptops & servers. However, as you point out, the non-obvious play of HP making a move to open the Palm OS up to any & all handset manufacturers is very intriguing. Interesting insights, as always, Tim. All the best.

  • The MSFT play is obvious, especially given the large installed base Windows has in desktops, laptops & servers. However, as you point out, the non-obvious play of HP making a move to open the Palm OS up to any & all handset manufacturers is very intriguing. Interesting insights, as always, Tim. All the best.

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  • Anonymous

    very good point. yes, HP should license WebOS to OEM’s now. Google has opened the door and they’d be crazy not to. HP is never going to be a major smartphone OEM on its own – it is too late for them to break into that rapidly fragmenting market at scale. but they can expand their nascent WebOS ecosystem via all the other OEM’s. which they strategically need to do to ever take a strong position in the evolving tablet/computer market of the future that they cannot ignore.

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