Earlier this morning, Google announced its intention to buy Motorola Mobility for 12.5 billion in cash or $40/share. There are three broad justifications for the deal:
- Access to the Motorola patent portfolio which it could then license to partners like HTC and Samsung to protect against the long arm of Apple's lawyers.
- An integrated hardware/software play to compete with Apple. The problem with this logic is that the deal does not address the fragmentation on the Android platform, which is the bigger issue.
- The set-top business to bolster its lagging Google TV offering.
This said, the deal leaves Google in a very awkward position of being half-pregnant and trying to be a provider of an open source "environment" while at the same time competing with its "customers." It also means that there are four integrated hardware/software offerings: Apple/iOS, HP/WebOS, RIM/QNX, and now Google/Motorola, and potentially a 5th if this deal emboldens Microsoft to pull the trigger on the long-rumored full takeover of Nokia. The Apple story of simplicity and focused innovation at the app level has won out over complexity and innovation at all levels. Unfortunately, the deal extends the overall market fragmentation at a platform level well into 2013 to the frustration of developers.
So where does this leave the Asian OEMs HTC, Samsung, and LG? If Microsoft passes on the Nokia acquisition, this deal could throw Windows Mobile a temporary lifeline. Forrester can hear Steve Ballmer and company pitching the Asian players on how Microsoft is the only hardware agnostic player left and that HTC, Samsung, and LG should increase their support for Windows Mobile as protection against Google favoring its own hardware play.