It was a bit of a shock when Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility hit the news today. Moto was once a cellphone superpower, and it created the first commercial cellular phone, the DynaTAC 8000X. It had a demise in the early 2000s after failing to innovate around software for its phones.
More recently it has attempted a comeback in the smartphone market by implementing on Google’s Android platform and now the majority of their product lines are built on this basis.
But whilst Android sales have been sold, nothing can match the build quality and usability of Apple’s iPhone. The reason why Apple outclasses the other smartphone vendors in this respect is because it builds the software for the device – thereby limiting the number of varieties of device out there.
This has pros and cons. On the one side there isn’t diversity and choice, and on the other, this makes building software that works well much easier. And this is where Android falls over – there are so many variants that software doesn’t really work well. Updates work even less well and vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and from device to device.
So Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility is a great thing in one respect. It allows google to control one of the devices in the Android market and to set a gold standard for which other vendors like HTC and Samsung to adhere to. It can control updates and make really great devices that can really go up against Apple. This can only be a good thing for a market which is starting to become dominated by one major player.
The downside seems to be that the big players have started to play hardball in the courts around patents. Apple are suing Samsung around its Galaxy tablet PC and if history is our guide, the fights will get bloodier and messier. Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility means that they acquire a large and varied patent pool.
The question is: will Google flex its muscles in the court as Apple is starting to do, or will it instead use the acquired company to innovate and drive competition in the marketplace for smartphones. We will see.