One lesson that was drummed into my thick skull early on was never to accept the first answer to any important question. I was taught that you absolutely must ask "Why?" at least three or four times before you even begin to start uncovering the truth. Never take anything at face value. Always look under the surface, and beyond the superficial, if finding the true answer is important to you. I was reminded of that lesson this morning as I read through the official PR surrounding Google's surprising move to swallow Motorola Mobility Holdings.
Here is what Larry Page, the Google CEO, had to say:
"In 2007, Motorola was a founding member of the Open Handset Alliance that worked to make Android the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. I have loved my Motorola phones from the StarTAC era up to the current DROIDs."
True enough. No way to argue with that.
In 2008, Motorola bet big on Android as the sole operating system across all of its smartphone devices. It was a smart bet and we’re thrilled at the success they’ve achieved so far."
True again, though there were a lot of other companies that stepped up to the table and placed big bets on Android as well.
In other words, Google and Motorola have a shared destiny. They are linked at the hip. That seems to create an image of such a close, personal relationship that it would be extremely difficult for other manufacturers, including others that have made the commitment to Android, to compete with them.
"We recently explained how companies including Microsoft and Apple are banding together in anti-competitive patent attacks on Android. The U.S. Department of Justice had to intervene in the results of one recent patent auction to “protect competition and innovation in the open source software community” and it is currently looking into the results of the Nortel auction. Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies."
Is this the 'real' answer, Google's core motivation? It certainly rings truer than the earlier explanations. All of them are valid and credible, to different extents, but it appears that the need to establish the strongest possible patent position against any and all competitors may be Google's "Final Answer"."
Whether or not that answer is acceptable to Motorola's competitors, especially other Android licensees, and to government regulatory agencies, remains to be seen, or perhaps even played out in court. Unfortunately, it isn't clear how this move will enhance Android's competitive position as an operating system in the marketplace, or how it will benefit consumers. We certainly can hope that it will, and that it will result in many improvements and enhancements across the Android universe, including cloud and robotics applications. But, other than building what they hope will be an impenetrable patent defense wall around Google and Android, it's hard to understand how the other benefits will come into reality.