It seemed like a logical acquisition. Google, which had been the strongest force behind the Android operating system, bought Motorola’s mobility unit in 2011. What better way to apply vertical integration, in the same way that chief competitor Apple has done? Yet throughout the acquisition process Google said that it would not show favoritism towards its own entity.
The sentiment was reasonable enough. By that time Samsung had become the dominant Android supplier, and Google wants to stay on good terms with them. Any indication that they would move towards an Apple-like vertical integration would have Samsung looking elsewhere for an operating system. Still, it’s hard to look at the setup and think that Google will remain true to its word for long. There are just too many benefits to controlling the operating system and the hardware that runs it.
One upcoming project could perhaps kick off a tighter relationship between Google’s software and its hardware arm. The Android blog Phandroid picked up on a since-removed job listing from LinkedIn, calling for applicants to work on the X-Phone. It is described as a “next generation smartphone platform,” giving lofty expectations to the project. While Google will likely deny that the X-Phone represents a move towards vertical integration between Android and Motorola, the possibility is certainly out there.
Of course, Google will continue to peddle its normal line about not showing Motorola favoritism. It is in their best interest to keep Samsung, which is dominating the non-Apple mobile segment, happy. After all, Samsung could have a number of Android alternatives later this year. As FierceWireless’s Mike Dano notes, there are a number of new mobile platforms launching this year. We saw last week that BlackBerry 10 could provide some competition, and RIM is open to licensing the platform. Firefox is releasing a mobile OS later this year, as is Ubuntu. They’re not the only ones, so Samsung could have options.
Still, it’s unlikely that any of these platforms, even BlackBerry 10, makes a serious dent in the market. Perhaps Samsung could help lift one from obscurity to competition, but it would take that kind of coup. Otherwise, Android will remain the dominant mobile platform, with Apple taking care of its market segment. Given the status quo in that regard, it does make sense for Google to run an end-around and really push its own developments through Motorola. It seems like the next logical step.