When I first heard of Google's $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility, my initial reaction was to shake my head in disbelief. But then I read Larry Dignan's post that revealed six pretty strong reasons why the deal makes sense for Google.
Buying the patent portfolio makes sense. There's certainly some meat to the argument around hardware-software integration, aka The Apple Model. And the instant potential for Google TV with Motorola Mobility's set-top box business is intriguing.
But there's still something here that doesn't settle well for me. And I think it has to do more with Google than it does with Motorola Mobility.
This morning, I couldn't help but think back to Google's short-lived attempt at selling an Android device - the Nexus One - directly to consumers. The concept wasn't completely ridiculous when you considered that Google was trying to change the game by allowing consumers to choose a device first and then pick a carrier second. But Google wasn't equipped to sell mobile phones - which is still very much a touchy-feely experience - directly to consumers. For that, they need a branded, offline physical presence that they didn't have - and just as quickly as the company entered the game, it smartly retreated.
Granted, comparing that effort to the Motorola Mobility deal is kind of like comparing apples-to-oranges - but I still can't help but think that the hardware business is an area where Google doesn't belong.
Google makes great software - plain and simple. Whether it's a mobile OS or an update to Gmail or even some tweaks to YouTube, Google is known for what it does on the software side of the technology equation. But what does Google really know about the hardware game? Is Mountain View really ready to get into the manufacturing business, dealing with component vendors and factory issues and so on?
Yes, I realize that Motorola Mobility does know how to do this and that it will continue to operate as a standalone entity - just with a new parent company. But I just don't care for the way that Google tries to venture away from its core strengths. It started off as a search engine that quickly became an advertising powerhouse and then made a big play in mobile. That's fine - those all feel like natural progressions.
But this move just doesn't do it for me - especially because it turns hardware partners like HTC, LG and Samsung into instant competitors. One of the things I love about Android is the choice that comes with it. I can walk into a carrier's store and check out different Android phones - the Samsungs, the LGs, the HTCs and the Motorolas - and focus on things that are important to consumers, such as size, weight, camera and even touchscreen versus sliding keyboard.
At some point, will those stores only be stocking Motorola-branded Android phones?
Maybe I'm completely off my rocker here. Maybe Google is ready. Maybe this is a smart play that allows Google to control its own destiny the same way Apple has done over the years.
But as I think about Dignan's six reasons why this deal makes sense, I just can't seem shake my own feelings about why it doesn't.