It's only natural to compare and contrast what has happened recently with what has gone before, but more often than not that analysis proves to be faulty.
Much of the conversation these days following the announcement of the proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobility by Google has focused on what this means for all the handset and tablet manufacturers that support Google Android. After all, Google will be competing directly with them rather than merely providing an open source operating system that can be used by all to further their own aims.
While that distribution model drove the adoption of Windows and enabled the rise of Microsoft, smartphones and tablets are very different animals all together. The simple fact of the matter is that the operating system that is being used on a particular device doesn't matter nearly as much as it once did. That's because with the advent of HTML5, the applications being created by developers can pretty much run anywhere.
There's a lot of debate these days about the merits of developing native applications versus using HTML5, but the fact is that there is almost nothing that can't be done using native development tools that can't be done on HTML5. The only major difference is that the HTML5 application can be easily ported across any number of devices.
What is important is the synergy between the operating system and the underlying hardware. Given that it's become important, as so clearly shown by Apple, having control over the operating system and the underlying hardware does matter. In fact, while most of the conversation these days is focused on the handset and tabloid market, the other pertinent fact about the $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility, notes Bill Morelli, director of the Mobile Technologies Group for the market research firm IMS Research, is that it includes Motorola's set-top box technology as well. So don't be surprised to see all manner of Google-branded devices showing up in your home in the near future.
But that doesn't mean there needs to be a common operating system in the post-PC world. HTML5 applications will run just fine on just about any device, so there's no chance of being locked into any one vendor. What that means is that what was once critical in the PC world, an open operating system that allowed applications to move from one device to another, is no longer relevant in a cloud computing age that will be dominated by HTML5.
In fact, what will matter more, adds Morelli, is the richness of the application portfolio and strength of the social networking environment that any one vendor can leverage. Right now, that part of the equation favors Apple, but it's also clear that Google is gaining ground quickly.
There's no doubt that as the competitive landscape continues to change, Google has finally realized that the rules of the game have fundamentally changed. In that context, one could easily argue that the acquisition of Motorola Mobility is an acknowledgement of a new reality that represents more of an overdue reversal of strategy than it does some bold new initiative that changes the rules of the mobile computing game, especially when you consider how much those rules have already changed.