Talking to Myself about Google, Motorola and webOS

Talking to myself about this past week’s mobile events:

Why did Google buy Motorola?

Patents, primarily, but being able to bring out a reference device could have been in play. I also think that Google sees the carriers as a major cause of Android fragmentation and this could be a way to fight back.

Do you think Google is fundamentally giving in to the integrated business model used by Apple and RIM?

No although they may end there anyway as I think this will scare Android licensees.

Wait. Carriers have a role? in this Motorola-Google deal?

Yes. I believe the vendors are weak when dealing with carriers and Google needed leverage. I don’t think this was the original reason for the deal but do believe this is probably the biggest benefit for developers. Fracturing of the standard flavor Android platform should be less of an issue, excluding the Nook-Kindle-Chinese offshoots that will happen because Android is open source. Google should now have the direct leverage it needed to ensure that the Android operating system updates go out to device customers in a timely fashion.

What will happen with the two companies?

As their sizes are about the same I would think it would have at least even odds of working but offset that with two very different company cultures. I’m backing off of this question. There are way too many moving parts to know what impact this will have on Google, let alone the market.

What impact did Google-Motorola have on HP?

Very little for the decision would be my guess. I have a hard time believing this was just decided on Monday.

Really? Isn’t the timing suspicious?

I do believe the announcement timing was done on purpose but I doubt that the decision was precipitated by the Google-Motorola deal. Not convinced a public announcement was smart, though, at least if the goal is to license the OS.

So you don’t think HP is trying to license it?

No. What value does a public announcement have?

Hey, I’m asking the questions here.

Sorry. What I mean is the Google-Motorola announcement already puts pressure on those without an operating system to acquire one or build their own, non-Google flavor of Android. The public announcement of webOS devices being canceled doesn’t help that at all. There is plenty of pressure behind the scenes.

So why make a public announcement?

I don’t think it was a signal to other mobile hardware vendors. I think it was a signal to HP’s enterprise customers, Oracle and IBM. “We were distracted before with all this consumer hardware stuff,” I think HP is saying. “We aren’t anymore.”

So where does that leave webOS?

Without a home. Clearly the HP laptop division being spun out doesn’t want it otherwise it would have been wrapped into that announcement. It could have been easily bundled up with it. My guess is it will be sold off for expertise or patents.

Not as an OS?

I don’t think so as I don’t see who would want it. Okay, LG and HTC could want it but neither company has any real software experience. It is a huge difference between maintaining a skin on top of an OS and building an OS. Besides both companies are in a better position to customize Android then re-start with webOS, especially since they have built multiple years of expertise there. Samsung has Bada and I don’t think there is benefit in owning a second OS. Amazon is a long-shot as I think they are likely too far along with their Android customization efforts. Facebook… maybe they are the only ones but I would have thought all this would have been floated and discussed long before the announcement. There is no benefit in announcing the discontinuation of hardware before announcing a licensing partner. If HP had found a buyer or licensee I think that would have been announced instead.

Why is there no benefit in announcing hardware discontinuation? Wouldn’t that signal to a licensee that HP won’t compete with them like Google will?

Because the developers will all scatter to the wind and I can tell you from personal experience, once you are burned there is little chance of attracting developers back. A smartphone platform without developers is no better than a feature phone platform.

So who would buy webOS then?

I could see Apple and Microsoft both desiring the old Palm’s 1500+ patents. I could see Google making a play for them as well. They have plenty of cash left to plunk down another couple billion for the patents. Besides Apotheker, given the explosion in mobile patent costs, could claim victory by selling just the patents as those alone could be worth more than the $1.2B HP paid for it.

Apple is amazingly missing from this week’s announcements.

Oh, yeah? I would say Apple is everywhere in this week’s announcements. Motorola is in dire straights because Apple took all the profits. Apple, along with Microsoft, are also the ones suing everyone over patent infringement and Google needs to fight back there (or at least even the odds. And as for webOS… that one is obvious. HP is in essence saying it doesn’t want to compete with Apple (nor Google for that matter) for either tablets or smartphones anymore.

So where does this leave us as developers?

We have four major platforms now in the US: Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. BlackBerry OS will be usurped by RIM’s QNX operating system in the spring and the big question now is whether developers will go along with the move. If RIM handles this well they could mitigate Nokia-MS alliance before there are even devices. If they don’t then we imitate the band Genesis and name our next album “And Then There Were Three.”

2 thoughts on “Talking to Myself about Google, Motorola and webOS

  1. I think the obvious next play here, if HP is serious about getting out of the consumer space, is for them to sell webOS and the Palm patents to Google for a premium over what they paid for Palm. I don’t know who in the world would buy(or could afford to) HP’s PSG, except MS. What’s the play there, much the same as the implicit premise of Google buying Moto: Lead partners in hardware design. MS has tried to do this with the Signature Series. But, it’s hard to gain mindshare when it is only sold and/or marketed in the handful of Microsoft Stores. And then Google and MS fight over the remains of RIM(which will be dead in a year or so). It’s going to be a bloody next year or two, with three platforms coming out in the mobile space. The PC realm will look very different as well. What a crazy time to be watching this tech industry.

    • One thing that always strikes me as interesting is how Linux is ignored in the desktop market share wars discussion. Everyone always says that all the OSes died and then there were two: Mac and Windows. There wasn’t, actually. There were three left including Linux. All those backend servers running Linux are computers, too.


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