In a recent post on Why Google had to buy Motorola, I pointed out that both Ben and I had predicted that this would happen because we were convinced that in order for a company to really be successful in tablets and smartphones they had to own the ecosystem of hardware, software and services.
Today’s announcement that Google would buy Motorola’s Mobility Solutions group underscores this thinking. As Google studied the ingredients of Apples success, it became obvious that Apple’s ownership of the OS and then its ability to fine-tune the hardware to deliver a seamless user experience was critical to consumer’s strong acceptance of the iPad and iPhone. Apple uses this ownership to drive amazing innovation.
This allows them to deliver the upcoming iCloud service so that it can synchronize content and data between all OS devices and utilizes the hardware in special ways. And it gives them a platform for future innovation. For example, what if the next version of the Nano has Bluetooth on it and can be used in a wristband/watch option. Since it is IOS based, it would have the new alert system that will be in IOS 5. That means that technically, if you get an alert on your iPhone in your pocket, that same alert shows up on your Nano watch. This is just one example of how Apple can continue to drive innovation at the hardware, software and services integration level. Knowing Apple I am sure they have dozens of these types of things in the works.
Google clearly went to school on this and while they claim that the patents were a key part of the reason they bought Motorola Mobility, the other reason is that they clearly know that by owning the hardware and software they can now drive the innovation of Android from both the hardware and software level and take more control of their future. And while they want others to keep licensing Android, they basically threw their partners under the bus in order to insure Androids long term success. I predict you will see Android defections or at the very least, companies hedging their bets by endorsing a third alternative by the end of Sept.
Now, don’t think that this same thinking has escaped Microsoft. They have to have come to the same conclusion. Microsoft clearly wants Windows Mobile Phone 7 to become a worldwide hit and at this moment, Nokia is just another distributor of Windows Phone 7 in the same way HTC and other are. But if they decide to keep this OS as a pure licensed property and trust the hardware partners to innovate on their own, that boat has sailed. They too will come to the conclusion that if they want Windows Mobile 7 to be the third major alternative to Apple’s IOS and Google’s Android, they will need to own the hardware as well as the software and services.
Of course, this goes completely against their 30 years of history of being a software licensing company. Actually, they have precedent in hardware with the XBOX. But the rules have changed when it comes to mobile and I believe that Google’s move to buy Motorola Mobility has now forced Microsoft’s hand.
I now believe that it is no longer a matter of “if” Microsoft will buy Nokia but instead a question of “when” they will do it to make sure that Windows Mobile 7 can compete against Apple and Google.