Should Google lend a hand to other struggling OEMs?

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We were all very surprised when it was announced Google had moved to purchase Motorola Mobility in the second half to 2011.

As I noted in my piece from Monday, we were all taken aback and curious as to why Google had moved to purchase a hardware company.

Obviously, the purchase was heavily – if not entirely – fueled by Motorola’s immense, mobile-related portfolio of over 20,000 patents. But when Google’s own Dennis Woodside moved over to Motorola as the new CEO, we could only speculate that Google, despite making it very clear Motorola would remain a separate company, wanted Motorola for much more.

It turns out, that conclusion may have been drawn prematurely, since we learned late last week that Lenovo now wants to purchase Motorola from Google, to build and expand its mobile footprint. To read more about that, take a peek at Michael’s breakdown of the sale to learn what to expect of the future of Motorola with Lenovo, provided the sale is approved my all appropriate governments.

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Google may have lost some money on each end of the deal, but it has netted a profit for both itself and Motorola in the long run. Google, for one, managed to keep a hefty chunk of Motorola’s patents in the process – roughly 17,000 – as well as Motorola’s research division, Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP), best known for its Project Ara efforts.

For Motorola, the profits may not materialize as cash in the immediate future. With Lenovo in the driver’s seat, cash will be the least of its worries, at least in the beginning. What Google has effectively done, however, is build a platform for growth for Motorola, a rock solid foundation.

Whether that was entirely Dennis Woodside’s fault or Google also played a part is unknown. We’ll never know and it honestly doesn’t matter. All that matters is how incredible and drastic the change between Motorola as a standalone company and Motorola as a Google company was.

Motorola was a withering brand, which fewer and fewer people seemed to care about. The DROID RAZRs were a cool reboot of an old, nostalgic brand. But each model lacked the flair the originals had.

And somehow, by laying that brand to rest and refocusing efforts, Woodside (or Google?) helped Motorola rekindle the fire in Americans (and many non-Americans alike) with the Moto X. A simple, yet beautiful thing. I don’t want to dilly-dally on the Moto X too much, though. I’ve sang the praises far too much already, and I’m sure we all know how polished and brilliantly modest it is.

Even though the Moto X seemingly did little towards to end of last year to stop Motorola’s bleeding of profits, I think we can all agree the phone, as well as the Moto G, have helped set the company on a better and brighter course for the future. And with Lenovo at the helm, we hope the notable PC brand can keep building the momentum for Motorola and follow through with the Moto X successor many of us are looking forward to later this year.

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But there’s something I’ve been wondering for much longer than this Motorola-Lenovo situation has been going on.

Could Google help other struggling OEMs, too?

I wouldn’t count on Google buying another hardware manufacturer, especially with such a quick turnaround time on Motorola. Plus, with Motorola ATAP on its side, it may not entirely be out of the hardware business. Aside from a few odds and ends, like Google Glass and the Nexus Q (side projects, if you will), however, Google has never been a hardware company.

Somehow, though, Google seems to be able to tap into the hardware and design better than just about any other Android manufacturer out there. And I’d be hard pressed to say Google doesn’t have a better understanding of UX, too.

Android 4.4 KitKatOf all the versions of Android – bone stock or heavily customized – I’ve ever tried, the most consistent and tolerable versions have always been as close to AOSP as possible. And most of my favorite Android devices, hardware-wise, are Nexus devices: Nexus One, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 7 (2013), and Nexus 10. All of those are at the top of my favorite hardware list.

Notice that a lot of those devices are vastly different from their next-of-kin from the individual manufactures. The Galaxy Nexus was quite different from the Galaxy S IIs; the Nexus 4 looked nothing like the Optimus G; and the Nexus 10 looks totally different from all of Samsung’s Galaxy tablets. Likewise, the Moto X was a stark contrast from all of Motorola’s prior DROID RAZR devices, as well as the devices in the similar Droid Ultra lineup. Side by side with the Droid Mini and Droid Ultra, the Moto X felt superior in design and build quality.

Oh, and as short-lived as it was, the Nexus Q was quite the spectacle.

Maybe it’s just me, but I quite like what happens when Google has a say in hardware design. And I can’t help but feel it could put that prowess to good use in helping other Android manufacturers who are struggling to gain traction – almost like a crash course or an extended Google Play edition program.

If the Nexus brand is to die (which I’m not at all convinced of yet), I would, at the very least, like to see Google play a part in the creation of various devices. Imagine what would happen if it were to aid in the fat-trimming of TouchWiz or in the design of the G Pro 2’s hardware.

Not everything needs to be “all Google all the time.” But I wouldn’t be against seeing Google help struggling OEMs onto a better path and stimulate the competition a bit. Samsung being so utterly dominant while HTC, Sony, ZTE, Motorola, LG, and practically every other Android OEM struggle to gain traction and maintain business is growing old and, frankly, boring.

We need some drama (the good kind, of course) and serious competition once again.

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About The Author
Taylor Martin
Based out of Charlotte, NC, Taylor Martin started writing about technology in 2009 while working in wireless retail. He has used BlackBerry off and on for over seven years, Android for nearly four years, iOS for three years, and has experimented with both webOS and Windows Phone. Taylor has reviewed countless smartphones and tablets, and doesn't go anywhere without a couple gadgets in his pockets or "nerd bag." In his free time, Taylor enjoys playing disc golf with friends, rock climbing, and playing video games. He also enjoys the occasional hockey game, and would do unspeakable things for some salmon nigiri. For more on Taylor Martin, checkout his Pocketnow Insider edition.| Google+