The game changing implications of Google buying Motorola Mobility.
I have been in the world of technology for a long time. I remember programming in Basic back in the early days of home computing on those lovely (but fragile) Sinclair ZX Spectrum computers. Oh such joy! To recall the days when you would wait for software programs to load in many minutes from analogue cassette players on to your trusty home computer – it was a simple life then. It was hard to tell how far the growth of the technology would go back then.
Fast forward a few years and I recall learning how to work DBase 3 and 4 applications on Microsoft DOS. These were the days before Windows or rather Windows was only starting to catch on as an operating system. You used to work software using all sorts of keystrokes from the command prompt. A few years on, Windows version 3 became well entrenched during my University days, and well, as they say, the rest is history.
Sometime in the mid 1990s, Microsoft’s dominance grew and grew through Windows, and thereafter via its Office productivity suite. Do any of you remember Word Star, Lotus 123 and CorelDraw? Back in the day these software companies dominated their businesses. In the early days of the Internet, we had companies like Netscape and Eudora who were untouchable. However, in no time, Microsoft took them out too.
Then, I cannot recall when exactly it happened but Google came onto the scene. At the time, when I was well entrenched in Kenya’s nascent Internet industry, search engines like Alta Vista, Excite and Hotbot were all the rage. However, they were clunky and it took forever to find stuff. When Google “checked-in” so to speak, everything changed. Overnight, you simply stopped using anything else to search for stuff online since Google just worked, each and every time. Once again, the rest as you could say is history.
Today we are faced by a Google that is without a doubt the most potent technology business in the world. From rising to become the world’s leading search engine over a decade ago, Google has gradually morphed to become so much more. Google in many ways reminds me of the dominance that Microsoft once had in the desktop computing days – their grip was unbreakable and everyone caved in to their whims. It was a different world indeed.
However, it seems, in a world that has embraced mobile technology in all its myriad forms, Google is seemingly even more formidable and dominant than Microsoft ever was in the desktop computing era. In a matter of a few years, Google’s Android platform has risen fast and wide to become the leading smartphone operating system. However, let us not forget that Apple’s iOS is also quite formidable but is typically geared towards the high-end of the market whereas Android is available from the low-end to the top of the market.
This brings me to the point of this blog post. Yesterday, Google announced that it intended to acquire Motorola Mobility for the princely sum of US$ 12.5 Billion. This is the largest acquisition that Google has ever done to-date. Its a big deal by any measure. The main motivator for the acquisition is that Google’s Android platform is at risk of lots of patent infringement suits with the likes of Oracle, Microsoft and Apple so this is actually a protective initiative. Therefore, in buying Motorola Mobility which also makes lots of mobile devices based on the Android platform, Google also gains access to thousands of patents, as well as patents pending to counter the lawsuits.
The real kicker in Google buying Motorola Mobility is that overnight, Google is now able to offer not just the software and services for smartphones – it now can start marketing its own mobile hardware. This makes Google as vertically integrated as Apple in terms of mobile offerings. However, Google could potentially in the process alienate itself from the many mobile device manufacturers like Samsung and Huawei who have adopted Android wholeheartedly to-date. Its a tricky move from this perspective.
So, going forward, what are the implications of a “GoogleMoto” future? Increasingly, the world is embracing mobile computing and communications. This means being able to do all that you used to do on your desktop or laptop “on the go” on a mobile device. The proliferation of mobile broadband, cloud services, applications and new kinds of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones means that Google stands to reap from all these areas in its new integrated model. The only missing piece to the puzzle would be for Google to actually become a mobile network operator, which is not inconceivable.
In many ways, Google has much more going for it than many of its competitors such as Microsoft and Apple. It has the ability to scale massively and now offer mobile devices too that could pack a punch at a very low-cost. Its starting to feel that Google is no longer that cute little start-up it was over a decade ago and had the famously quoted ethos of “don’t be evil” but rather its becoming a behemoth that has all the intentions of global domination in the fast growing mobile technology space. Suddenly, the likes of Microsoft, who were often referred to as “the beast from Redmond” in the past are starting to look tame in comparison to Google. In a mobile world, Google is effectively positioned to become THE game changer.