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THE TRUTH ABOUT THE GOOGLE-MOTOROLA DEAL: Google Had To Do It–And It Could End Up Being A Disaster

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Provided by Business Insider:

A very interesting move by Google this morning, buying handset hardware maker Motorola for $12.5 billion.

But let's be real: This deal could end up being a disaster.


Well, let's have a look at the host of questions and challenges the deal raises, starting with this one:

How do HTC and Samsung, two of the leading Android-based smartphone makers, think about the fact that their "partner" Google is now competing directly with them for hardware sales?

And we mean, how do they really feel, internally, not "what are they saying in public?" (The quotes Google has assembled from HTC, LG, et al, all appear to have been written by the same PR person--note the similarity in the language.)

The only reason Android (and Google) have any share of the mobile game, after all, is because hardware makers like HTC and Samsung adopted Google's software platform. And now Google is stabbing them in the back.

By now, it's probably too late for Samsung and HTC to switch to another platform, so they'll have to smile and make the best of it. But still... having your software "partner" suddenly fire a missile down your throat can't feel too good.

And if Google-owned Motorola starts to gain share in the hardware business, the feeling (and tension) will only get worse.

Second, is this an acknowledgment that, in smartphones, Apple's integrated hardware-software solution is superior to the PC model of a common software platform crossing all hardware providers?

It certainly appears to be.

Android's biggest weakness thus far has been its fragmentation: The combination of many different versions, plus many different customizations by different hardware providers, has rendered it a common platform in name only. To gain the full power of "ubiquity"--the strategy that Microsoft used to clobber Apple and everyone else in the PC era--Google needs to unify Android. And perhaps owning a hardware company is the only way to do that.

Third, how is Microsoft feeling? Is this a great deal for them...or confirmation that they're screwed?

So Google investors are smart to be worried.

Yes, there's a chance that Google could pull off a miracle here and transform the Motorola Mobility business into a direct competitor of Apple's--in which Google gets not only Android distribution, but super-fat iPhone-like profit margins to boot.

But doing that will be super-challenging. Motorola's current hardware team has displayed none of the magic that Apple's has. And the more Google tries to mimic that magic, the more Google's other Android partners will likely rebel against Google's competitive threat.

Far more likely, Google will just continue Motorola's mediocre also-ran status in the handset business, thus adding a big, crappy commodity hardware business to its glorious monopoly software business in search. And that won't make investors happy.

Bottom line, a bold move by Google. But one that raises a lot more questions and challenges than answers.