updated 05:15 pm EDT, Wed August 17, 2011
Google-Motorola to make integrated phones too
Google's buyout of Motorola is not just about patents but echoing the Apple-like integrated hardware model Google swore it would never follow, a major leak alleged on Wednesday. Although patent security is a key goal, one aim is now said to be to design hardware, not just to build the OS. The company's mobile VP Andy Rubin, who the WSJ said was personally involved in brokering the Motorola deal, may have helped push for a merger with this in mind.
Google didn't comment on this claim or agree to an interview for Rubin, who was the subject of a wider analysis by the newspaper.
The search engine designer has had a partial hand in hardware design, having influenced the Nexus One and Nexus S along with smaller-scale cooperation on other devices, often guided by Rubin himself. Still, it has never had total control over a design and has repeatedly insisted that neither the Nexus line nor any other efforts would lead to making hardware directly. When it revealed the buyout of Motorola, Google said it would run Motorola as a "separate entity" to ensure fair competition with other hardware makers.
If accurate, however, the discovery would suggest Google was being partly dishonest. Publicly, it has said that the Nexus line will be open to others, but the new claim could effectively see Motorola making official Google-designed phones as complements to or outside of the Nexus line. Other Android hardware creators' official endorsements have been called into question given their use of repetitive language that suggests they were told by Google what to say; they may now have to compete directly on the market with the company producing the OS.
A truly Google-developed phone with Motorola as the hardware wing could, in effect, be a capitulation to Apple chief Steve Jobs' repeated assertions that an integrated hardware and software design like the iPhone's works more effectively than the "fragmented" Android platform. Even as Google has often embraced the concept of choice and benefited from overall larger market share, it has also faced mounting complaints about the decisions of its partners hurting the experience.
Many devices even today still ship with the year-old Android 2.2 or get delayed upgrades. And while Android is supposed to be more open, many phone designers lock down the firmware and prevent apps or interface layers from being removed. The situation is compounded by carriers that themselves often insist on disabling features or adding non-removable apps. Apple offers fewer freedoms to customize the iPhone's OS but also limits what carriers can do that might sour a device for the end user.