Hey guys! I’m back! I caught this interesting quip while surfing the net today. Apparently, Motorola has agreed to sell their Motorola Mobility holdings to Google to the sound of approximately $12.5 Billion, or around $40 per share. The decision was approved by both boards of directors after the market closed on Friday, August 12th, 2011.
According to Google:
The acquisition of Motorola Mobility, a dedicated Android partner, will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem and will enhance competition in mobile computing. Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. Google will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business.
This is an interesting business move for Google. Motorola has already produced many quality smartphones and other Android devices such as the Motorola XOOM Tablet, and were effectively the pioneers of the Android device market. Since then, other companies such as Samsung and HTC have jumped on board, producing many other amazing devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab series and the HTC Status that has been getting marketed all over television. At first, you almost have to ask, “Why is Google buying out one of their biggest partners in the mobile industry?”
While I can’t state that I understand the business decisions other than “to make money”, I do know that this is something which Android users have been looking forward to for a long time: Google is taking a more active role in controlling their mobile platform.
By far, the biggest problem which Android has faced is continuity across the platform. Every time a new Android device comes out, the first thing that people ask is “Which version of Android does this come with?” This hasn’t been a severe issue since Android 2.2 Froyo has been out for a while now, but back in its first few months, nobody knew for certain whether the latest devices would come with 2.2, 2.1, or even 1.6. This has caused some severe headaches for developers targetting the Android Market, because unlike Apple’s App store where basically every user is in the same ballpark firmware wise, no one could predict what their user’s firmware would be. This caused many apps to be broken on certain devices, and many apps would stop working altogether when the user upgraded to the newest version of Android.
A lot of this has been caused by Google’s Laissez-faire stance on making manufacturers use a specific version. At a recent local technology fair, I spoke with a Dell representative about some of their latest tablets and touch-screen PCs. When I asked if they would update their tablets to Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the representative replied that Dell would not upgrade until “they” had worked out all the bugs and made sure it was 100% compatible with their stuff. What this means is that Dell had complete and total control over not only the hardware on which Android would be run but also which version to run. Google had absolutely no say in it, despite Android being their platform. This is one of the main factors that allows Apple to remain dominant in the smartphone industry, because they control the exact programming and hardware specifications of every single iOS device in existence.
This power move by Google will allow them to exert more direct control on the market. Every Motorola-branded device that comes from this bargain will now be directly overseen by Google themselves from the time of conception until it hits the shelves. As if this weren’t precedent enough, they’re branding these devices with the most well-known name in the Android market. This sets the bar up high for all the other OEMs that want to use Android, because now they have to keep up with the latest advances in Android technology, or else their devices will fall behind in the market. If Google releases Android 2.4 or 4.0 and starts pumping out devices that are running that version, HTC will look really silly if they try to put another 2.2 Froyo device on the shelf next to it.
Overall, I think that Google has finally decided to exert their control over the smartphone industry. When Android was young, Google simply planted the seeds in order to let the phenomenon grow. Now that it has taken root, though (no pun intended), Google is ready to start pruning the weaker branches in the chaos that is the Android forest.
Until next time, may your bootstrapper never be locked by the company.