The shockwaves of the recent announcement that Google is buying Motorola Mobility, the handset and device division that spun off from the Motorola mother ship not long ago, will continue to ripple far and wide. There are several reasons why this could be a great boost for Android, but also some major concerns about getting the two companies and their product lines to blend well.
There’s much debate about the reasons behind the acquisition. Was Google looking to boost its patent portfolio to create a Mutually Assured Destruction/Mexican Stand-off scenario (pick your metaphor) in the midst of the tit-for-tat patent suits going on right now? There are arguments on both sides about how worthwhile this gambit is (Yes it is! No it’s not!). There are also arguments that patents are only a piece of the puzzle, and that Moto’s hardware business was also a major part of the logic. I fall into this camp. My colleague Max Burton has looked at this deal from a hardware design point of view, I’m going to look at it from an ecosystem strategy and cultural point of view.
Blend the Ecosystem
It seems like years ago that Google’s first phone, the Nexus One, was launched, but it was only 18 months ago. I wrote at the time:
Google’s introduction of Nexus One, a phone to truly call its own, is a completely necessary move for the company. Only by taking ownership of the whole user experience will Google really be able to prove the value of its Android platform.… The lackluster success of the early Android phones has surely made Google realize that they need to take a much stronger role in order to bring all the pieces of the experience together. The catch-as-catch can approach they’ve had so far just isn’t going to cut it. Fragmentation is a death knell for a product like this at this stage of maturity. Google needs to lead the charge with an integrated platform until the experience gap is fully closed. Then it can afford to loosen the reins and let the handset manufacturers, carriers, and third party developers go do their own things independently, safe in the knowledge that they will all come together to create something interesting and valuable for customers.
The underlying rationale here, as I described in that earlier article, is that early in a category’s development (e.g. smartphones, tablets), complex devices, platforms, and ecosystems under-perform user expectations unless they are highly integrated. This creates a gap between the experiences that products can provide and what people want (see diagram). This gap can take time to close as the technologies and platforms improve, and instead of creating a finely blended smoothie, you get a lumpy concoction that’s unpleasant.
Continue reading here.
Image by Robert Scoble via Flickr.