Buying Motorola: Google's Biggest Blunder?: Page 2

Google's management is supremely logical. But the marketplace is far from this rational.
Posted August 17, 2011

Mike Elgan

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The reasoning behind the Motorola acquisition, and why it shouldn't bother Android partners, is that Motorola is going to exist as a competitor regardless of whether Google technical owns the company or not. And Motorola's patent kung fu protects Android handset makers from lawsuits and licensing fees.

It makes perfect sense. It's logical.

Unfortunately, electronics giants like Samsung are less like Spock and more like McCoy in their thinking. Their decision-making may consider "emotional" issues like pride, trust and even nationalism.

Pride: Android handset makers may feel blindsided by the Motorola acquisition. Imagine if you owned a local car dealership that sold Hondas and Mazdas, and right next door was a local Honda dealer. You're competing with that dealership for local car buying business, but that competition is fair.

Then one day, Honda itself buys the dealership next door. How would that make you feel about all the work you'd invested into selling and servicing Hondas all these years? You might be tempted to switch to selling only Mazdas, if for no other reason than to maintain your dignity and pride.

Trust: If Google can became your competitor overnight, what else are they capable of? Google already has a reputation of changing its strategy, unceremoniously canceling high-visibility programs and projects like Google Wave, Google Answers, Dodgeball, Jaiku, Lively and others.

Even if the Motorola deal makes perfect sense, Android handset makers may lose their trust in Google as a partner.

Also: Did Google’s founders consult an expert on Korean and Japanese business culture? Asian companies tend to place far more emphasis on trust as a vital ingredient in any business partnership.

Nationalism: The handset universe use to be dominated by Canada (RIM), Korea (Samsung) and Finland (Nokia). Now the Americans are kicking everyone's ass.

Increasingly, Apple and Google are gaining power, dictating standards and dominating the mobile scene, both in handsets and tablets. Companies like Samsung and Sony are associated in Korea and Japan with national pride. Suddenly, their American platform partner buys their American competitor. It could be interpreted as yet another power grab by America, Inc.

Google appears to be counting on rational thinking from its competitors. But emotion may play a part in the erosion of Android support.

Users are even more emotion-directed than handset makers. Many Android users are loyal to the Android brand, and have formed an emotional attachment to Android that's bound up in their self-identity. It's similar to the fanboy mentality that dominates Apple enthusiasm.

This illogical affinity toward Android means fans are more "attached" to Google than to Samsung, HTC or others. Google and Android loyalty could translate to a preference for Motorola phones and tablets. Android fans may assume, rightly or wrongly, that Google’s company will make the best tablets, have the latest features and be engineered more expertly to run Android than handset makers that are not owned by Google.

This affinity for Android and Google gives Motorola an enormous advantage -- and the third-party partners an equally enormous disadvantage. And even if it doesn't, Google's Android handset partners have reason to suspect it might.

Google intends to buy Motorola to boost the Android environment. But the whole deal may have been Google’s biggest blunder ever.

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Tags: Google, Android, mobile, Motorola

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