After months of waiting to clear regulatory hurdles, Google has finally acquired Motorola Mobility. But the question remains: Now that Google has it, what does it want to do with it? It could be that not even Google is yet certain of the answer.
Officially, the company says the acquisition will allow Google to “supercharge the Android ecosystem,” whatever that may mean. Google also says Moto will continue to operate as a separate business, and will remain a licensee of Android. In other words, Motorola Mobility won’t get any special favors when it comes to the latest versions of Android. Sanjay Jha is out as CEO and Google has called up Dennis Woodside, who previously served as president of Google’s Americas region.
Many people in the industry are asking whether Google really wants to get into the hardware business. Motorola Mobility brings three major categories to Google: handsets, set-top boxes, and patents. It could be that all Google really wants is the patents, and it will sell off the other divisions as soon as it gets the chance. In that case, Google will be declaring that it does not want to get invested in hardware.
But I think it would be more interesting if Google keep the hardware business, or at least the set-top box side. Handsets are a brutal business and there are lots of them, but set-top boxes could be poised to make an impact on the connected–devices market. I’m imaging what Google could do by integrating its Google TV platform into Motorola’s set-top boxes. Now, this might not fly because most of the boxes are bought by cable companies, who are becoming more interested in offering their own connected-TV (and connected home) platforms. But if Google could get its own platform into consumer homes on set-tops boxes, it would provide a huge new opportunity for the company.
Motorola Mobility is already doing some cool things with its boxes, such as the announcement today from The Cable Show in Boston. The company showcased its own interface called DreamGallery that’s designed to help users find TV shows quickly, without searching. Consumers can bookmark content to find it faster, and they can receive recommendations. While Google may not love the “search free” aspect of the interface, it’s an innovative way to find content on the TV, where search has traditionally been poor.
Whatever Google does with Motorola Mobility, the direction it takes will say something about the company’s ultimate plans. Will it enter the hardware world or not? For my part, I’d like to see what it can do.