It’s two days later and I’m still puzzled. Yesterday When I saw the headline, my jaw literally dropped. Usually, when a big tech merger happens you can see the logic behind it. Even though you don’t agree with the logic, you understand why they made the deal. But in this full case the greater I think about any of it the more baffled I get. Did Google by Motorola for the patents?
If so, why isn’t it rotating out the hardware business? Or does Google buy Motorola since it wants to be in the hardware business? If so, will it understand what an environment of other problems that will create for Android and the rest of Google? Seriously, if Google tries to integrate Motorola into its business we’re able to finish up citing this as the offer that permanently broke Google. Why roll the dice like that?
Maybe I’m lacking something, maybe Google loose has a screw, both of the above mentioned maybe. Or possibly I’m wrong to consider airtight logic. Companies make decisions on impulse sometimes, especially when they are under stress, and it’s a sure thing that Google is under stress these days on IP issues.
So I’ve a lot more questions than answers. Why does Google take action, really? The conventional answer is that Google desired Motorola Mobility because of its patents. That’s what Google itself implied, and Marguerite Reardon at CNET decided (hyperlink). That might well be the explanation. Om Malik had a really interesting take: Google bought Motorola as a protective move to prevent Microsoft from getting the Motorola patents (link).
And Richard Windsor of Nomura, who I respect deeply, said within an e-mail that is all about the patents. He predicts that Google’s new patent portfolio will create an equilibrium of power enabling Google to quickly force a settlement to the patent lawsuits against its licensees. But if you wished only the patents, I think you’d buy Motorola, carefully keep the patents, and then spin out the hardware company to avoid antagonizing your licensees.
Google says it intends to keep Motorola and run it. 10 billion significantly less than Motorola (hyperlink). 10 billion more, or maybe there are some terms in Motorola’s patent cross-license agreements that Google frantically needs. But again, if that’s so, why not keep carefully the patents and resell the hardware business?
Unless Google is lying down about keeping Motorola intact, I think Google intends to maintain the mobile hardware business. Does Google know how to operate a hardware business? No, of course not. The procedures, disciplines, and skills are different utterly. The same business practices that made Google good in software shall be a liability in hardware.
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Google’s engineers-first research powered product management beliefs is effective in the introduction of web software, because you can run experiments and revise your web application every day in response to user feedback. But in hardware, you have to make feature decisions 18 months before you ship, and you have to live with those decisions for another 1. 5 years while your product sells through.
You can’t afford to wait for technology. Instead, you will need dictatorial product managers who are powered by artistry and intuition. All those concepts (dictatorship, artistry, intuition) are anathema to Google’s culture. Either Google’s worldview will dominate and spoil Motorola, or even worse the Motorola worldview will infect Google. Google with Motorola inside it is like a python that swallowed a minivan.
To place it another way, I think Google has about as much potential for successfully managing a device business as Nokia got of running an OS business. But the real question is, does Google realize that it doesn’t learn how to make hardware? I question it. Speaking as someone who proved helpful at PalmSource for its whole independent history, an OS company always believes that it might do a much better job of making hardware than its licensees.