Whenever Google is put in the hot seat and questioned on the future of the company in a post-Motorola purchase world, they give the same answer: “We won’t play favorites in the way people are concerned about.” Every time I see this, I can’t help but wonder why Google, (or Schmidt, in this case) leaves out the qualifier “…for now.”
During an October 1 interview with Bloomberg TV, Google’s Eric Schmidt reiterated the Big G’s commitment to the current Android ecosystem by saying,
The Android ecosystem is the number one priority, and we won’t do anything with Motorola--or anybody else, by the way--that would screw up the dynamics of that industry. We need strong, hard competition among all the Android players. We won’t play favorites in the way people are concerned about.Eric SchmidtGoogle
Schmidt then goes on to say that the patents acquired in the deal will help competition, which he speculates will bring about a rough truce between rival companies and push the market to level out. But what will Google really do with a hardware manufacturer? As often as Google execs mention how important it is to maintain the current Android model, they mention that the Motorola acquisition wasn’t just about the patents. In fact in this particular interview, Schmidt said that “the majority of the reasoning” behind the purchase is that Google has a lot to gain by partnering with a company that knows “how to build the next generation of tablets and phones.” Google was actively seeking a company that builds phones and tablets just to share the knowledge they can gain by working with them, right?
Even if Google is refusing to admit the positive impact that a full-blown Google manufactured device could have on the company, other manufacturers know it. Rumors that current Android manufacturers are seeking software alternatives are nothing new. Samsung, HTC and even Amazon have all been pegged as looking for their own operating system. By controlling the hardware and software of your device, companies are able to control the entire experience their product offers. Google may be saying that their commitment to the current Android ecosystem is what will keep companies like Samsung coming back for more. But for now, it’s a lot simpler than that. It’s all about the money.
Samsung already owns their own operating system, and they make handsets running Windows Phone OS as well. Yet they put more money into advertising and developing for Android. Manufacturers won’t actively dedicate all their resources to an alternative operating system until Android stops being profitable. If Google did give Motorola (their own) devices first access to new firmwares, would Samsung’s phones stop selling? Would HTC no longer be able to make sales by boasting the benefits of using Sense over stock Android? And how would a true Googorola device be any different than a Nexus, anyhow? Google says they aren’t playing favorites (for now); that much is clear. But when will they start? I have a feeling 2012 is going to be an interesting year.