Last August, Google surprised us all by proposing to buy Motorola Mobility for a cool $12.5 billion. It wasn't immediately apparent what Google's true intentions were at the time, though we figured Moto's 17,000 or so mobile-based patents might have something to do with it. Shortly after the proposed acquisition, Google came forward and alluded that they were in it for more than just patents and sought to ”supercharge the Android ecosystem”. They wanted Motorola Mobility for their hardware, too, and that they can "enhance competition in mobile computing". That said, Motorola's large patent portfolio did play a big part in why Google chose them over the rest of the crop of Android OEMs. The 17,000 patents can help protect Android and Google on an intellectual property standpoint, so why not knock out two birds with one stone?
Still we were curious whether they planned to keep the hardware company after the acquisition and what it might mean for their other partner manufacturers.
Google promised to keep and run Motorola as a separate company and to treat it no differently than its other partners. Following the proposed acquisition, several of the largest Android manufacturers released official statements, all welcoming the deal and Google's commitment to protecting the operating system, its partners and the ecosystem. But it was still unclear how Google would run a separate hardware business – one that is directly competing with its other partners – without showing favoritism and giving their in-house hardware company an unfair advantage.
Early yesterday morning, after nine grueling months of awaiting approval, the deal was finally closed and several of Google's planned pieces began falling into place. Google CEO Larry Page announced on the official Google blog that Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha has stepped down from his duties and has been replaced by long-time Google employee Dennis Woodside. Woodside's goal is to streamline Motorola's product line and to have fewer, larger-scale launches.
But what does all of this mean for Google? Motorola? Android?
It's impossible to say what exactly Google plans to do or how Woodside will streamline the product line with his newly appointed role in the company. And it's impossible to judge how this will affect Android as a whole. That said, I have some theories and a few things we can only hope for.
Last week, we heard a rumor that Google would be working closely with up to five hardware manufacturers, giving them early access to source code prior to public release so that they could work on Nexus devices and sell them through Google’s Play Store and various retail locations, sans contract. While Google is undoubtedly looking for more ways to monetize Android, many suspect this is also a ploy to work closely with Motorola and create a purely stock Moto device without upsetting its partners.
However, while Google is clearly intent on selling hardware without the interference from carriers, there's hope that more Motorola devices will appear on more carriers. Woodside may be cutting back the product line, but Motorola has been giving Verizon the majority of its attention and high-end devices since the original DROID launch. Aside from the Photon, Atrix 4G and Atrix 2, all of Motorola's high-end devices have been DROIDs on Big Red. It's still a stretch, but I would hope to see other carriers get a little Moto love, too.
Motorola has put a lot of time and energy into differentiating their devices from the competition, both through hardware and software. The hardware has always been topnotch, and with devices like the DROID RAZR MAXX, which is the only Android phone that can easily last a full day on a single charge (and likely have some juice left at the end of the day), Moto definitely has a lot going for them. As for software, though, MOTOBLUR has scarred them. Even the much more frothy Motorola Applications Platform (MAP) isn't exactly reflective of the design efforts Google has put into its most recent version of Android software.
While some wouldn't mind if they killed MAP off entirely, that's not the way Google should go about it. After all, it is still a separate company. However, a Google employee has been named CEO, so here's to hoping he can coerce the developers to focus a bit more on the design of MAP.
Then again, killing off MAP entirely and starting from scratch wouldn't be a bad idea either.
Google has always encouraged users and developers to tweak, alter, mod and customize their devices to no end. After all, that is the true beauty of Android and its open source nature. Some manufacturers and carriers, on the other hand, do not like for consumers to tinker with their devices. That's where locked bootloaders come into play. They don't totally prevent third-party developers from rooting or creating various mods. But they do make for a pretty large hurdle that makes development and, likewise, hacking and modding quite the chore.
Considering Google now owns Motorola, let's hope they can drag Moto back to the light, away from locked bootloaders. Still, that doesn't account for carriers who request bootloaders to be locked.
Google has been talking about and showing off Project Glass for just over a month now. Never mind the fact that there are prototypes floating around amongst a few Google employees, there remains one fact: Google is not a hardware company. Now, though, they have Motorola, which may be a perfect match for such a product.
At CES, you may recall a somewhat similar product by Motorola and Kopin Co. called Golden-i. Golden-i is a fully-functional, mobile PC that is worn on the head and has an adjustable single-eye display. It's not exactly like Google's Project Glass vision, but it seems quite promising that Moto would be interested in such a product.
Unlike other Android manufacturers, Motorola has been digging deep for a differentiation factor since the original DROID. They revitalized the RAZR brand and created one of the most impressively engineered and thinnest Android phones to date. They also packed the DROID RAZR MAXX with almost double the battery capacity as most phones without making terribly bulky. But one of its coolest projects has been webtop and laptop docks.
Through the webtop interface, you can connect your phone and computer to the same wireless network and control your phone via Web browser. Being someone who works from the computer a lot, being able to manage phone notifications and such through my computer is a priceless commodity.
But that's not all. Motorola also introduced laptop docks for various phones of theirs, which essentially turned the phone into a netbook with a customized interface and full Mozilla Firefox browser. Both Windows Phone and iOS are being more closely integrated with their desktop counterparts (Windows 8 and OS X, respectively) with each and every update. Android doesn't really have a desktop companion, yet using Linux and the laptop dock method, that issue could be completely answered.
There is clearly a lot in the works between these two companies. And now that Motorola is part of Google, there is an opportunity for Google to really run with this, despite the risk of upsetting their other partners. Most of this is just wishful thinking and the machinations of my wandering imagination. Hey, anything is possible, right?
Tell me, readers. What do you hope will come of this acquisition? Will things stay mostly the same? Or will Google and Motorola corroborate some fantastic tech?