After getting regulatory approval in China, Google today wrapped up its acquisition of Motorola Mobility, signalling their entry into the hardware world. As a part of the deal closing, Motorola's CEO Sanjay Jha has stepped down to make way for Google's Dennis Woodside.
If you've ever peeked your head into our sibling site, Android Central, you might know Motorola basically bet the farm on Android. Given, HTC was the launch partner for Android over three years ago, it wasn't soon thereafter that Motorola gave up Windows Mobile and ditched their dumbphone business to focus exclusively on Android, and arguably helped launch Android into the stratosphere with Verizon's Droid line. However, Motorola gradually lost its financial footing, split the company up into infrastructure and handset businesses, and then, last August, Google announced its intention to acquire Motorola Mobility. Since then, there have been a lot of legal hoops to jump through, but now the deal is done.
So what does this all mean for Apple? Well, Google, traditionally a software and web services company, is moving aggressively into the realm of hardware, where it will compete even more directly with the iPhone and iPad. If you need further proof of that, it's worth noting that Google has also recently picked up the industrial design company that designed the Nexus One, Mike and Maaike.
Before Android launched, rumors swirled about a Google-made "gPhone", but the closest to that Google has ever been are tight partnerships with outside manufacturers to create the Nexus lineup. Now Google have sworn that the bidding process will remain as open as ever. If it doesn't, Google stands to estrange top-tier partners like Samsung, push them right into the arms of Windows Phone, and further fragment Apple's competition into nice bite-sized chunks. That might be why Google has been making noise about having multiple Nexus partners next time around.
It's hard not to be skeptical about Google's success on the device front, however. Their attempts at selling Nexus devices through Google's own online retail storefront haven't done particularly well, and the Chromebook project was an unmitigated flop. Elsewhere, Microsoft's Zune has shown just how dicey it can be for a software specialist to get into the hardware biz. There's something to be said for offering a complete end-to-end solution -- that's Apple's strategy, after all. Then again, it's also RIM's.
If Motorola continues to sink, will Google be able to resist giving them a first-party Android boost? If competition heats up, if companies like Amazon and potentially Facebook field forked versions of Android, would Google never consider going head-to-head with them using more streamlined, unified, and competitive to the iOS hardware, with code linked to the device more tightly than ever? Or will Google be more interested in juggling their manufacturer relationships and keep Samsung, HTC, LG, and other partners happy by not playing favorites?