Google and Motorola tighten their smartphone ties

Google and Motorola tighten their smartphone ties

Summary: A new report says Google's wholly owned Motorola subsidiary is working on a top-secret "X phone," with a tablet not far behind. What will its Android handset partners think?

TOPICS: Google, Android, Mobility

I am shocked, shocked by this news from Google, dumped into the news cycle on a Friday afternoon before the biggest holiday weekend of the year.

Google is in the midst of designing a brand new smartphone that is said to "rival" anything coming from mobile giants Apple and Samsung, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The report says engineers at Motorola Mobility (which was purchased by Google in a deal that closed in May 2012) are developing devices they're referring to internally as the "X phone," with an "X" tablet not far behind. The devices will "stand apart" and "provide more potent competition" for devices like the iPhone and Galaxy S III.

Gee, where have I heard this before?

Oh yes. Here:

Licensing operating systems to hardware partners is a tricky business. Google’s announcement this week that it plans to buy Motorola Mobility is a tacit admission that the partnership thing just isn’t working out for them. Android might be selling lots of phones (and a few tablets too), but the ecosystem is a mess, the Android reputation isn’t exactly stellar, and Google isn’t making nearly enough revenue per phone. 


Buying a hardware company means Google gets to build Android and its phones in sync.  ... A Google phone or tablet manufactured by Motorola will have unfair advantages right out of the gate.

Such a phone will almost certainly be set by default to use Google services and will also steer traffic exclusively to Google’s sites. There’s no guarantee other handset makers will be as loyal to Google—at least not without some cash in exchange for setting the right default services. Google can even sell its phone at or below cost if it knows it can make a higher amount through the ongoing revenue stream.

But the biggest advantage of all is technical. The engineers who work on those new phones and tablets made by Google subsidiary Motorola will have access to “highly proprietary” parts of Android that Motorola engineers don’t see now.

This wasn't how things were supposed to happen, of course. Google promised that this was all about the patents and it would never treat its partners differently.

Why are you acquiring Motorola Mobility?

There are two reasons. For one, innovation. This acquisition will bring Motorola Mobility’s hardware expertise closer to our software expertise -- accelerating innovation. The second reason is to protect the Android ecosystem. Dubious lawsuits are threatening Android and its manufacturing partners. In some cases, litigation is keeping companies from selling competing products. Motorola Mobility’s patent portfolio will act as a deterrent, ensuring Android devices continue to compete with Apple, RIM and other platforms.


Will you now favor Motorola Mobility’s handsets, giving them the latest versions of Android before others, providing better functionality, etc.?

No. We will continue working with all our hardware partners and will continue our strategy of working with different lead device manufacturers. We want as many companies building Android devices as possible.

This was never about the Motorola patents. And it wasn't about Google TV, as this week's sale of the Motorola set-top box division made clear.

Meanwhile, I don't expect the hardware partners to react with a unified voice to this news.

Topics: Google, Android, Mobility

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  • hey now

    your taking stabs at google for a rumor- you know that right?
    • Rumors, damned rumors, and statistics

      Yeah, that's what it seems. However, someone at Google also famously said "Two Turkeys don't make an eagle". Well, even if it's a rumor, it's still motorola, and an android.

      If anything at all, if I was a competing OEM, it makes windows phone look more appealing.
      • Windows Phone?

        "If anything at all, if I was a competing OEM, it makes windows phone look more appealing."

        You mean, so that instead you can compete against Microsoft and Nokia for a piece of a much smaller revenue pie? Somehow I don't see that as the lesser of two evils.
        • Right

          If your losing money with android like some OEMs are then what do you have to lose. Besides, at the moment Microsoft do not make handsets and don't have the existing capacity to do it like Google dies.
    • rumors

      No, he's attacking Google over rumours that Motorola plans to release a -- gasp-- pretty good phone. I mean, how dare they?!
  • You said "I am shocked"

    Was that tongue and cheek?
    Or did I miss something?

    I agree that this was not about the patents. Google was looking for hardware manufacturing from the get-go.
    • "Casablanca"

      Probably one of the most famous lines in cinema history.
      Ed Bott
      • Ok, I get it now...

        Casablanca quote. I see.
    • Well the same Linux lovers and Google friends here and media

      pundits like SJVN, AHK said Microsoft would get screwed because they'd ditched the OEMs and making their Surface RT and Surface Pro competing with OEMs. To make it interesting ACER's CEO literally cried (-minus tears) on stage because Microsoft decided to make Surface. What would he say now. Would he repeat the same crying scene again? What would SJVN, AKH and other media pundits who tried to slap Microsoft with their rants here do? I know SJVN would make it an easy thingy because he loves Google. While AKH would laugh at Google because he is used to Apple's.
      Ram U
      • So, you think SJVN is going to post a blog

        titled "Google throws its Android partners under the bus"?
        • No I think SJVN is going to post

          that Google is correcting the market or Google has every right to take your money, identity or whatever with Motorola X. ;-)
          Ram U
          • of course they do

            If you are that stupid to let them.

            It's your money, your identity, your information. And, your responsibility to guard them - if there is any value to you, that is.
    • Initially I thought you were serious, but now I understand your /s

      Ram U
  • Great news

    I can't wait to see how amazing is that new Motorola.
    Hope others to follow up.
    I can't understand why the author sound worried! I'm not worried even less with Samsung or Apple, that are very rich companies.
  • "never about the Motorola patents"

    Why not? Does an acquisition need to have just a single purpose or "driver"?

    Surely the deal could have made eminent sense based on BOTH the patents and the resulting patent protection AS WELL AS the ownership of a hardware manufacturers?

    The world is often not as simple a bloggers try to make it out to be.
    • Obviously

      Google bought a working company, not the remains of a dead company. Google wants to make as much money as possible out of the deal.
      I doubt Motorola releases a phone so amazing that can trash iPhone or s3.... I hope so though.
    • Google's "official" (read, "OEM-calming") stance...

      ..was that they had no intention of competing with their OEM partners. And maybe they didn't at first. It could be that Google wants to create a "gold standard" device to steer the OEMs toward making smartphones that can compete with the iPhone. I mean, that's what Microsoft wanted to do with the Surface, right?

      Maybe this will wake Samsung and all the OEMs up to the idea of actually making a smartphone that people want to buy. Not this Galaxy stuff that just sits on the counter collecting dust all day... oh.. wait a minute...
  • The DoJ will come in and smack Google

    Google will be making phones that other OEM partners cannot compete with.

    The United States Department of Justice and the European Commission will surely step in and give Google a smack for doing this.

    Google told everyone its Motorola purchase was only to get the patents. Not to make a superphone.
    • I think Google will still

      make Androis available to other OEMs, Vbitrate.

      A big thing in development at Google is voice and translation and they could really apply by pairing it with the right mobile hardware. I would not mind a phone that knows my voice and learns to do things I tell it. You know, one that is also a powerful computer and can link-up with my desktop, refrigerator, home entertainment system and my car's OS, etc..
    • I thought you Americans didn't like socialism...

      ..yet every time we hear these articles talk about companies deciding to bring out a product that competes with their own partners, you seem to want the Gub-ment to come in and "smack" those evil little capitalists, regardless of how low the potential damage to the free market it would be.

      I guess socialism is loved by everyone, as long as it only interferes with other peoples' freedoms.