When Google bought Motorola for $US12.5 billion in 2011, there was lots of talk that Google would revamp its Android division in the image of Apple.
Many people, including people at both companies, thought that Larry Page made the deal not just for Motorola’s patents, but so that he could combine Google software with Motorola hardware to rival Apple’s fully-integrated iPhone.
That never happened. Not really.
Now we know why. That’s thanks to Amir Efrati of The Information. He just published an excellent story on what went wrong with Google’s $US12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola.
In August 2013, Motorola came out with the Moto X. Motorola marketed the phone as the “Moto X by Motorola – A Google Company.” But it wasn’t the Moto X wasn’t the Google-powered, fully integrated phone that Motorola engineers and executives wanted to make.
They had a vision for a phone with much more impressive features. Efrati gives an example on such feature in his story.
“Motorola wanted to work more closely with the Google team that develops natural language processing technologies, which help computers understand naturally-spoken phrases rather than a limited set of commands. Deeply integrating such technology with Motorola hardware could enable people to use a much wider array of voice commands and speed up the time it took for the smartphone to respond to commands.”
It sounds like a Siri that actually works.
So what went wrong?
First, Google CEO Larry Page forbade Motorola teams from working with Google’s Android divisions. He was worried about alienating Android’s outside partners.
He told Motorola it could work with other Google divisions, like YouTube and Google+.
But when Motorola did, the Google executives and engineers running those groups were enthusiastic. A source tells Efrati that those Googlers “wanted to work on projects that had scale and Motorola didn’t have scale.”
Page could have pretty easily encouraged Googlers to be more enthusiastic about working on the Moto X, but he didn’t. He also refused to back the Moto X with a huge marketing budget the way Samsung backs new phones it launches.
It’s pretty clear that, for Page, the deal was always about Motorola’s patents — and the vision of a iPhone-like device was, for him, just a mild curious ity.