Google had informed the top five Android OEMs about its plans to acquire Motorola Mobility yesterday and all of them were unanimously “enthusiastic” about the move. This bit of information was announced during today’s Google-Motorola Mobility joint conference call. In fact, Samsung, HTC, Sony Ericsson and LG even gave their blessing to the proposed deal. But let’s be honest, all four of them will now be thinking of how they can be less reliant on Google to sustain growth in their smartphone and tablet business in the long run. Yes, Google has said Motorola will remain an Android licensee and it will work with other OEM partners just like it used to before this deal. Yes, Google says this deal is purely to acquire Motorola’s trove of patents, with which it could defend the entire ecosystem but I won’t be getting a sound sleep tonight had I been the CEO of any of these four vendors. Hit the jump to continue reading…So far, none of them have taken Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform seriously so far and have paid it lip service, at best. HTC, in particular, will be vulnerable as its recent stellar growth has come solely from its Android smartphones. Sony Ericsson, which is still recovering, will find it even more difficult to compete, if Google starts favoring Motorola. Is it possible for Google to partner with another OEM but Motorola for its flagship device/OS update in the long term? Won’t Google’s shareholders cry foul if Google decides to partner with any of its competitors? Also Read - China approves Google's acquisition of Motorola, deal to close in a week
There are multiple ways to look at it. From Google’s perspective, Motorola holds a very small share of total Android devices. Partners like Samsung and HTC have been responsible for a much bigger chunk of the 550,000+ Android devices activated per day and Google cannot afford to alienate them if it wants to control the largest smartphone OS in the world. Plus, Google has never dabbled in hardware and until today had no aspirations to do so. Just to make regulators in the US and its OEM partners comfortable, Google could sell off Motorola’s handset division while retaining its patent trove. (Google paid a 40 per cent premium on Motorola’s August 12 closing price for its patents that Google desperately needed and not for the handset division.) It could then work closely with Motorola’s Home Solutions division to make the ‘Android Home’ a reality and keep working on smartphones like it did before the deal. Also Read - Rumor has it: Google to sell Moto's handset biz to Huawei
On the other hand, assuming the deal is approved by US regulators in its current form and Google insists on retaining the handset division, things could get tricky. With Microsoft now preferring Nokia, the only other option for these OEMs would be to license webOS from HP. However, the OS is not ready to compete with Android and iOS. Keeping these situations in mind, it is more likely for these OEMs to continue with a broad mix of Android and Windows Phone smartphones and try to differentiate among themselves (and Motorola) with core hardware USPs and a content+cloud offering. They will also attempt to customize the ‘Android experience’ even more than they currently do, which could lead to further fragmentation of Android. The timing could not have been better for Microsoft, which is on the cusp of launching the first devices running the new Windows Phone Mango OS. Also Read - US Dept of Justice approves Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility
This is by far one of the biggest test of Google’s ‘Don’t be evil’ policy. We will wait and watch if it holds true after the acquisition is approved.