April 18, 2012

Samsung Is Not Google's Wife, It's An Uncommitted Girlfriend

Casey Chan of Gizmodo recently shared his views about the Google-Motorola (Googorola?) acquisition. Short version--he's against it. Or rather, he is against the idea of Google working tightly with Motorola to develop a strong, cohesive device like the Apple iPhone. His argument is that this will piss off the other manufacturers like Samsung and HTC who have been loyal partners. He also notes that this will limit the openness of the Android system, give people less choice, and thus make the experience less unique and personalized from user to user.

But it's the first argument I want to talk about: leaving loyal partners. Specifically, Casey Chan compares Google dropping Samsung in favor of Motorola to "cheating on an exorbitantly rich spouse who handles all the bills and finances who's also a wonderful person and does exactly what you want it to do and keeps you free from any and all stress."

That's just wrong. Here's a better comparison:

Google leaving Samsung will be like leaving a very rich girl you've been dating for a while who's been really good to you, treats you with respect, and the sex is great, but who has also been entertaining other suitors on the side (Windows Phone & Bada) and has no plans to tie the knot. If Google chooses Motorola exclusively, it will not be "cheating." It will be because Google is ready for a commitment.

Google has been on the market for some time, and it's no spring chicken anymore. It's already in its twenties, and that clock is ticking. If Google sticks with Motorola, it will be because Google is ready to settle down and have legitimate children--not those shared-custody Nexus babies.

I don't recommend Google favoring Motorola over its existing partners. Android can still grow substantially in market share, and this is only possible with multiple partners that have global reach.

But it's important to understand that manufacturers like Samsung and HTC are not exclusively loyal to Google. They are not wedded to Android. They are businesses, just like Google, and they will jump ship at the drop of a hat, if they decide that their interests no longer align with Google's interests.

In the past, Google has had a tight partnership with Apple. They counted on Apple to promote its search and maps products. Now, Apple is offering Bing and Baidu as search alternatives and has been acquiring mapping companies left and right, supposedly to build out its own mapping service in favor of Google's. Nothing is stopping Apple from dropping Google services entirely as soon as their contract expires.

Partners are great. They are essential, especially in the beginning, to get new services off the ground. But it's also important to have some security. A back-up plan, just in case your partners have a change of heart. That's what Motorola is for Google. It's a very expensive back-up plan.