By Greg Mills
When Google moved to buy Motorola they proclaimed that the purchase was to counter Apple and boost the patent portfolio behind the Android OS. They also maintained their intention to keep Android OS open source and support the various handset makers that have built the hardware behind the success of Android.
There is an old saying that what you do speaks far louder than what you say. There is also a tendency in business to provide a contingency plan in case unanticipated things happen. Thus, it is turning out the handset makers other than Motorola are worried Google will favor their in-house handset maker and freeze them out. The cutthroat handset market is so incredibly valuable it is hard to simply take Google at its word.
Within days of HP killing the TouchPad, Pre smartphones and really the Palm OS, Samsung announced it was dusting off its proprietary Bada smartphone OS as a back up just in case Google takes Android out of the open source camp and applies its new patents to monopolize the Android OS that the group of various handset makers has made popular.
The bottom line is that the move by Google to defend the Android OS is turning out to be destroying it. A platform that is fragmented is no platform at all. Apple can just watch the show from the sidelines as it preps iOS 5 and a new generation of iPhones and iPad to further obsolete the competition.
The Apple legal assault has destabilized Android without even delivering a crushing blow in the form of an injunction that is likely to lead to a recompilation of the Android OS and perhaps orphaning recent Android phones and apps. Apple is certainly winning the war through the age-old method of dividing and conquering the enemy.
With all this as a background, the South Korean Government has just announced a program to defend Samsung and LG by developing a new mobile OS that would create an alternative to Android, that their handset makers can depend on. While touting the existing Google supported Android OS program, a South Korean offical expressed fear and distrust of Google.
Kim Jae-hong, a deputy of the “Ministry of Knowledge Economy” (obviously an awkward translation) stated that while the Google purchase of Motorola might provide some short term protection from Apple’s patent claims, the ministry was planning to launch a project before the end of the year to develop a new open-source mobile operating system and web based operating system. (See http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/techscience/2011/08/22/36/0601000000AEN20110822007200320F.HTML .)
Kim stated, “Still, we cannot completely rule out the possibility of Google jumping into the smartphone business in the future.” What he means is that Google might decide to leverage its Motorola acquisition by taking Android into an exclusive relationship with Motorola and create a vertically oriented smartphone business like Apple. That would leave Samsung and LG out in the cold. The smartphone business is too important for the South Korean Governement to allow that.
Kim stated that Samsung had been very negative about a joint venture to develop another open source mobile OS, but that its stance changed greatly after the Google-Motorola merger. Google can’t win, no matter what they do. When Apple attacked all the Android handset makers Google offered moral support but was criticized for not doing more to help defend Android. So they buy Motorola for the patents to defend Android and the other handset makers are suspicious of their motives.
Everything Apple has done lately has come up roses…
That is Greg’s Bite on all this.