Google and Motorola Join Circles

Carrie Sylvester
May 23, 2012

On May 22, 2012, Google’s deal to purchase Motorola Mobility became official. The final purchase price was $12.5 billion. Google will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business that will be headed by Dennis Woodside, former President of Google’s Americas region. Woodside has created a team of new executives with varied industry backgrounds (DARPA, Amazon and NVIDIA) along with some members of Motorola Mobility’s team. Under the terms of the acquisition, Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of the Android operating system and Android will remain open.

The big questions on many minds is what does this mean for Google’s open platform and how does it benefit the mobile industry?

The first clue to what this acquisition might mean can be found in a quote from Woodside, “Our aim is simple: to focus Motorola Mobility’s remarkable talent on fewer, bigger bets, and create wonderful devices that are used by people around the world.” This could mean that Google & Motorola Mobility will not be churning out countless numbers of new handsets, and will take a more focused approach to new handset development. It is unlikely it will take the “one product at a time” approach like Apple, but will likely focus on developing a handful of innovative and stable mobile devices.

Android has suffered from fragmentation issues, where there are literally hundreds of Android handsets around the globe running different versions of the Android OS. Google really needs to pull back the reins on development and get all Android devices running the latest V4.0 OS (Ice Cream Sandwich) or at least Honeycomb (V3.2, released July 2011). There are still a good number of devices available or in use today that are running Gingerbread (V2.3) thus rendering many new apps or features unusable to these customers.

On the flip-side, the jury is still out on how this will impact the “openness” of platform now that Google has a horse in the device race. Will it truly stay “open”? Google will need to preserve the integrity of open development so all handset manufacturers, not just Motorola Mobility, stay competitive in the worldwide race for mobile innovation. Another problem may be that other handset manufacturers, like HTC or Samsung, will be less interested in the Android OS because they see Google/Motorola as a competitor.

This could be a great time for Windows to sneak in the back door and turn this primarily two-horse race (Android & iOS) into a trifecta. We will be watching this race very closely.

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