Maybe Google Knows Exactly What It's Doing with Motorola Purchase

Carl Weinschenk
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Google Versus Apple: The Big Showdown

Unless Google gets more aggressive about addressing fundamental Android issues, Apple may ultimately win the mobile computing battle.

The Wall Street Journal's Dennis Berman revisited the awkward marriage of Google and Motorola Mobility Holdings in a column earlier this week.

The deal was made last summer and now only awaits China's approval. Google said that it was after the 17,000 patents Motorola owned. But, like a house that comes with unwanted furniture, Motorola also has a phone hardware business - one that includes 20,500 employees in 92 major facilities in 97 countries, according to the WSJ piece.

The problem was well laid out in the piece and elsewhere. Google suddenly owns a device manufacturing operation that is in competition with the various vendors that use its Android operating system. The wisdom of creating such a landscape was a big question when the deal was made and still is. Writes Berman:

I've spent the last three weeks talking to people inside Motorola and Google and out, trying to solve the riddle. The disquieting answer is that there appears to be no sense that a choice is even required. There's only a cocky belief that Google really can be all things at once: a hardware company with software margins, and a neutral Android arms dealer that just happens to be building its own Motorola army on the side.

Much of the commentary at various websites focuses on whether Google had made a big mistake and put the future of its OS and business model in danger. David Cardinal has a piece at Extreme Tech, for instance, that is a very compelling analysis of why the situation is not in Google's best interest.

He isn't alone in describing what many see as an apparent misstep by Google. The critiques are based on the supposition that Google's partners will penalize the company in some way for in essence going into business against them. What much of the coverage misses is the simple question: What will the vendors who are upset do about it?

The answer is that the vendors may rebel, at least according to Android Authority:

But as it turns out, manufacturers are so sick of being unable to distinguish themselves in the Android manufacturer jungle that they are also planning on developing their own operating systems.

The reality is a bit more nuanced, however: Android is deeply enough engrained in the ecosystems of vendors that it will take a lot to make them forsake it. Quite possibly, Google simply figures that they will grumble a bit but ultimately bite the bullet and deal with the cumbersome structure.

They have little choice. A drastic move only will occur if the favoritism Google is feared to show Motorola actually materializes - and is egregious. Google's partners will make noise, but as a way of letting off steam and trying to keep Google in line.

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