Google Buys Motorola, Forgets What "Open" Means

Since Android made its public debut in Google's hands, it has been touted as being the up and coming "open" system of the future.  Inside of all of us, we all like a little bit of socialism, so it made sense for Google to use this to market themselves. When Android first popped up on the G1, it was clear (from its design alone) who its major competitor was going to be...Apple. Apple is not a company that would ever describe themselves as "open". In fact, Apple uses the fact that they are defiantly "closed" to have more control over their products.  It allows them to have a their products and the market has proven that this had made for very successful products.

Google touts itself as being free, existent for the masses, and "open". This is their marketing ploy.

But it's not that they're really open. The way they've handled Android has been anything but a true "open" system. You might say that when they say "open", they really mean, "We aren't Apple."

Today, Google made a move that supports these thoughts. Google announced that they are going to be purchasing Motorola Mobile, the company that has been manufacturing some of their Android handsets since the beginning of the DROID movement. Google says that they purchased Motorola because of their patents, as a way to "protect" Android from the evil "AppleSoft" hand that has come down on them recently. You'll remember my take on it.

It is true that Motorola had a bunch of patents that will help strengthen Android's arms (because as of late, the amount of patents you own correlates directly with how well you do and how little you get sued).

What's curious to me is that Google almost immediately posted comments from the other manufacturers that make Android handsets. Here's a few examples:

“We welcome today’s news, which demonstrates Google’s deep commitment to defending Android, its partners, and the ecosystem.”

– J.K. Shin President, Samsung, Mobile Communications Division


“We welcome the news of today‘s acquisition, which demonstrates that Google is deeply committed to defending Android, its partners, and the entire ecosystem.”

Peter Chou CEO, HTC Corp.


“We welcome Google‘s commitment to defending Android and its partners.”

– Jong-Seok Park, Ph.D President & CEO, LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company


This isn't all of them (you can read the others here), but you get the idea.

A few things strike my mind:

  • These comments all seem remarkably similar (and the speakers of them have been remarkably silent today)
  • Google posted these almost immediately (I would think for fear of the press thinking this was a poor idea)
And why? Because it is a poor idea.
You can't blame Google for wanting to buy up patents. After all, that's what they were upset at AppleSoft about.
But Google is now going to be running Motorola. They've announced that it'll be a separate function and business, but it will still be a Google business. The CEO will have to take care with it.  It will affect their bottom line.  It will become, in just a matter of time, a conflict of interest for Google when it comes to working with other manufacturers.
This is different than just buying up patents.  This is buying a company...a company that directly competes with other companies that use your product. The other companies will have to compete to survive against you. Then your company will have to compete to survive against them. And you own the OS.  You'll start thinking about who should get new updates first.  You'll start thinking that you can use this to get a competitive advantage.
Andy Rubin (head of Android at Google) has said many times that Google's Nexus phones and tablets are examples of what can be accomplished when the hardware and software manufacturers work together perfectly. This has been Apple's approach since the beginning. This will surely be one of Google's approaches moving forward.
But make no bones about it, this is Google making itself available to have more control over the end product. Hopefully, this will create better products. But along with that, leaves the idea of "open".
Apple has said it from the beginning: Control is good. Control creates better products. Does it eliminate a little user-friendly choice? Sure. But I don't remember people asking for choice recently.  I remember people asking for a good phone, one that works.
This is a good move for Google, I think. But they may truly tarnish their name before it is all over. HTC, LG, etc are going to be eating their words soon.
Goodbye "open". Welcome, "quality".