Musings on Motorola Mobility

Well, now, this is an interesting morning.

For those of you just tuning in, Google has announced plans to acquire Motorola Mobility.
While we typically refer to this simply as “Motorola”, bear in mind that the long-time US firm named “Motorola” split into two pieces a year or so ago. Motorola Solutions is a separate firm, handling two-way radios and other technology.

Google has indicated that it will operate Motorola Mobility as an independent subsidiary… though the precise definition of “independent” remains to be seen.

What does this mean? Here are some off-the-cuff thoughts:

You might react and think “well, all the other manufacturers will dump Android”. However, bear in mind that most other manufacturers have Android as part of a product line portfolio, also employing other licensed mobile operating systems (e.g., Windows Phone) or their own home-grown operating system (e.g., Samsung and bada). I can see some of those device manufacturers perhaps considering a slight shift in the weight they put behind Android compared to other options, but if Google reassures them that “independent” really means “independent”, I would expect few to truly dump Android. In many respects, the alternatives they have really are not up to Android’s caliber, at least in terms of available third-party applications.

That being said, I do suspect that this will somewhat slow Android’s growth, which was already likely to slow just due to sheer math (you can’t grow market share indefintely, since 100% is the ceiling). Microsoft may benefit, as firms might be more inclined to consider Windows Phone as part of their own product line portfolio. And if HP decides to license WebOS, that too might have a somewhat more productive result than I would have expected before.

Also, if other Android device manufacturers perceive that they are “second-class citizens” compared to Motorola Mobility in terms of getting Googly assistance, that too many drive device manufacturers to put a tad more emphasis on alternatives.

On the legal front, Google is now moving towards the center stage in the myriad patent disputes going on. One imagines they will use Motorola Mobility’s patent portfolio to more aggressively defend against Apple’s recent moves, for example. It’s sad that this is necessary, but, c’est la vie.

For developers, it will be interesting to see what happens with MOTODEV Studio for Android (Motorola Mobility’s extensions to the official ADT) and whether that proceeds apace, is folded into the ADT itself, or something else. The look of Motorola Mobility devices might shift — as AndroidGuys tweeted, “Could this be the end of MOTOBLUR?”. And I sincerely hope that this results in a win for the MOTODEV team, as Motorola Mobility has been far and away the most active of all the device manufacturers in helping developers with Android. Alas, I am nervous, as Google’s track record for providing this kind of help to rank-and-file developers has been… mixed.

All in all, the next 12 months is likely to be that much more interesting given the events of the last 12 hours.

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