A more Googley idea for what can be done with Motorola

A more Googley idea for what can be done with Motorola
Ever since Google bought Motorola, the Internet has been going mad. Everyone wants to use every little scrap of information as proof positive that Google is going to implode the entire Android ecosystem in order to get more profits from exclusivity with Motorola devices. Microsoft, Nokia and Acer have tried to fuel the fires in attempts to unsettle Google's hardware partners. Unfortunately, many of these stories are nothing more than hype and doomsaying, because it makes for better link bait. Not too many people have stopped to consider Google's decision history, company ethos, and business practices. We've already explained why Google won't use Motorola as the exclusive hardware manufacturer for Android, but suffice to say that Google wants multiple hardware partners in order to create competition, which ultimately pushes the entire Android ecosystem forward. However, that doesn't mean that Google shouldn't or won't use Motorola at all for Android devices. In fact, there's a huge potential for Google to use Motorola in a very Googley way, and it all has to do with lighting up unwired areas and bringing the world to the Internet.

Google's mission

First of all, let's get one thing straight: Google has never been a traditional company. We always want to assume that Google will make certain choices in order to increase profits, but that's not how Google has done business. That's how Apple does business. Apple is like a newly graduated MBA student: focused, and looking to maximize revenue. Luckily for us, that means we get beautiful devices that fit the needs of many users, and meticulously thought out integrated ecosystem filled with curated content, even if there is a bit of an Apple-tax and draconian control involved. On the other hand, Google is more like a hippy who gets stoned and wants to change the world: the ideas are grand, but the execution can be muddled, and distractions can get in the way. This means we can get great products that can disrupt entire industries, often because they are given away for free. They may not be the most focused efforts and the lack of control leads to a shared commune experience, but the free-for-all can mean that there's a lot of crap lying around.  However, all of the closing down of Google projects seems to show that Larry Page wants to limit the distractions, so we're hoping that helps.

If Google were in this purely for profit, it wouldn't have been giving away Android all these years, there would have been an exclusive partner a long time ago. Google would have tighter control over Android licensees, and app submissions. If Google were in this purely for profit, it would be licensing Google Maps and other services which are given away for free. In short, if Google were as focused on profits as much as the GooMoto doomsayers would have you believe, Google would be doing business more like Apple. The thing is that Larry Page and Sergey Brin honestly believe that they can change the world for the better, and they primarily want to do this is in 3 ways: 

  1. Organizing the world's information. This was mission number one by Google, and while search may not be perfect, it's gone a long way to making the pulsating mass of the Internet more easily understood. This organizational philosophy has grown to include: mapping the world, curating news, photos, videos, shopping, and much more.
  2. Making data universally accessible. This is applies to both Google's open source push, and Google Takeout. Many will argue that Google (and particularly Android) isn't as open as advertised, but once the innovation is done by Google, the code is free for anyone. And, if anything proves the openness of the system, it's the fragmentation and forks, like those planned by Amazon, or Baidu. There is even evidence to suggest open-source is a better way forward than the dreadful patent process we have now, because unlike the overly litigious patent system, open-source, even in its limited Google form, actually spurs innovation. Google has also pushed the Data Liberation Front through Google Takeout, so only you control your data and can take it out of any cloud service at any time. And, it's also why Google pushes HTML5, which can be used on any platform with a capable browser (sorry IE).
  3. Bringing the world to the Internet. This is why Android is free, because it leads to cheaper devices and more people on the Internet. And this last idea is the main drive behind our suggestion for the future of Motorola. Of course, because Google is still a business, once on the Internet, most roads lead to Google ads. 

More people on the Internet means more eyeballs for Google ads, and more people on Android means more user data which can be used to make more targeted (and more valuable) ads. But, that's also where Google can make its mark with the Motorola purchase, and do it in a way that fits with the company history. The grand hippy idea: create free/ultra-low-cost smartphones for developing nations to bring more people to the Internet. (Note: while the grand idea is to bring free/ultra-low-cost smartphones to all developing nations, for the purposes of this column, we're going to use the countries of Africa as examples rather than covering all areas of the world that would benefit from this, because Africa is the fastest growing mobile market in the world, and has the farthest to go in getting the Internet to the population.)

The next 3 billion

As huge as the Internet has become, and as integral as it is for business, society, and communication, over half of the world still doesn't have access to the Internet. Google has already invested in the company O3b (the Other 3 billion)1 which plans to bring affordable high-speed Internet to emerging markets via satellite. O3b wrapped its initial funding last year, and plans to have the first satellites up by 2013. However, affordable Internet isn't the real problem, the bigger problem is the prohibitive entry costs for hardware like computers or even modern mobile phones. The key to these markets will be in creating cell phones that have an unlocked cost of $50 or less.

Mobile phones are increasingly the primary way that people connect to the Internet. And, especially in poorer areas of the world, mobile phones are often the only way people can access the Internet. Right now, about 110 million people in Africa have access to the Internet, and half of that number live in either Nigeria or Egypt,2 leaving sub-Saharan Africa mostly in the dark. However, as of the end of last year, the total number of mobile connections in Africa had surpassed those in Europe, climbing close to 600 million devices.3 And, many people in Africa sharing mobile devices, whereas in Europe it is more likely that you could find people who have multiple devices themselves. In the past 10 years, the number of Africans on the Internet has grown by 2500%, all due to the adoption of mobile phones, but that is still an extremely wide split between the number of mobile users and the number of individuals on the Internet. So, even though those phones in Africa are the primary access to the Internet, they are often still feature phones with extremely basic web browsers, much like the phone that Eric Schmidt recently singled out when admitting that Google bought Motorola for its products as well: the RAZR. 

Basic mobile phones can still have an enormous impact on emerging nations because of that feature we may often forget as we use our devices more and more as mini-computers: they are phones. A farmer, fisherman, or hunter can generate more business by being able to call or text a reseller in order to more quickly initiate sales or trades. This efficiency not only boosts revenue for tradesmen, but it lowers the market price for products as well. It has even been estimated that an additional 10 mobile phones per 100 people in a population can increase the entire nation's GDP by 0.5% annually.4 Many of these phones have been made by Nokia, which is one of the first major companies to push sub-$50 feature phones for emerging markets.5 But, mere communication and feature phones wouldn't be enough for Google, and they certainly won't be enough as emerging markets continue to grow and interactions, both business and personal, must become more complex. Let's imagine ultra-low-cost or even free (because this is Google after all) Android devices made by Motorola.

Android Earth

Google knows the value in emerging markets like Africa, and has already begun planting the seeds for this plan by sponsoring Android Developer Challenges in sub-Saharan Africa (the first winner is due to be announced in just a few days actually, on September 12th.)6 Google has been pushing Maps in Africa with 45 countries open to Map Maker in order to crowd-source the creation of maps, and full Google Maps available in many countries.7 Google has even started a seed fund called Umbono, based in Cape Town, South Africa, which offers $25,000 to $50,000 in seed capital for businesses as well as mentoring for strategy and planning.8 Even just this morning (September 12), Google announced a program to help aid Kenyan businesses in getting online by providing free URLs, free online marketing and free education tools.9

But, as we mentioned before, it's the cost of hardware that's the problem, and hardware has always been outside of Google's grasp, until now. Now, Google can use Motorola and Android to push ultra-low-cost devices into emerging markets. Then, in addition to the communications benefits, there will also be the full power of the Internet for collaboration, research, and most importantly extending the reach of commerce. Right now, most of this is done via SMS, and there are powerful tools for banking via SMS, even a new startup which allows users to invest unused pre-paid air-time into stocks or funds.10 Google is already in this area, having released Google SMS in Uganda, allowing users to access news, health and agriculture tips, weather and more, and Google Trader11 which acts as a virtual marketplace to speed up those same transactions we mentioned earlier. Google has partnered with France's Orange to bring SMS chat to Senegal, Uganda, and Kenya.12

Android would not be so much revolutionary as evolutionary in these cases, because even feature phones have created the base connections and systems. However, the addition of a proper web browser alone makes much of the Internet available, and could evolve these systems with richer content, access, and distribution. Beyond that, Android apps could be tailored for specific purposes to add value for local businesses or traders, even in just creating a more robust system to evolve SMS-based tools like Google Trader, or SMS micro-finance tools. There is also a social impact from more powerful Internet-capable devices in emerging markets, through the knowledge sharing power of the web, including allowing schools to have access to constantly updated teaching materials. And, as Google continues to make cloud computing more and more robust, the productivity impact could be seen at every level of society.

Of course, Android would need a some major work, most notably it needs to become a multi-user system. Unless Google subsidized the phones and offered them for free, which may not be possible, there would need to be separate user accounts for Android devices, because often in developing nations, mobile devices are shared between a number of users. This is mostly due to the overall costs of devices, so the phenomenon would be lessened with ultra-low-cost, or free devices entering the market, but even then emerging markets will be more likely to have multiple users per device, rather than the multiple device per user model that we enjoy. Currently, you can log-in to multiple accounts on an Android device, but if you do, all of the information gets merged together, and it isn't a separate environment for each user. Separate environments obviously would benefit users, but it also gives more targeted information to Google, which can be used to improve ads, search results, and many other services. Google would also need to work hard to localize apps for various languages. While French is widely spoken in sub-Saharan Africa, and English is prevalent as well, where possible localization would be needed. 

For its part, Motorola would have a pretty difficult task as well in creating a phone which would be under $50 unlocked. In a perfect world, any device would be solar-powered and rugged. But, as far as keeping the costs down, there have been other companies that have created phones which would fit the model, most notably Mi Fone which offers a number of models of sub-$80 phones. These usually feature screens around 3", no more than about a 600 MHz single-core CPU. The key difference to this plan to this would be in Google's ability to subsidize the phones, and possibly bringing the price down to nothing. 


Google has always been a company with grand ambition, and a love for giving things away for free. Google has also always been a company pushing for Internet adoption everywhere. While it may not be the best sustainable business strategy, the vast majority of Google's revenue still comes from ads, which means that more people on the Internet, or more people on Android where many apps are free and ad-supported, means more revenue for Google. Google has always been most successful when disrupting markets by giving things away for free. That's why Google failed in the often called for disruption of American telcos, because the Google way to do that would be to own the spectrum and devices and give it all away for free, or at a much lower cost than current telcos. Unfortunately, that just isn't feasible given the power that companies like Verizon and AT&T wield over communications networks, both wired and wireless, in America. 

Google can certainly use Motorola for its patent portfolio, and for its set-top boxes, but must be very careful not to push away hardware partners for Android. That said, Motorola has a record of creating great, cheap handsets in addition to the smartphone powerhouses that we know and love. Google's main business is to get more people on the Internet, and the biggest market there is in developing nations, where many can't afford the initial costs for hardware to access the Internet. So, we want to see some GooMoto devices made to solve this problem. The creation of these devices shouldn't upset other Android hardware manufacturers, because there would be no direct competition. Google would have to subsidize costs, meaning it wouldn't be making any profit on the sale or distribution of these devices, and so shouldn't cause a problem with the Android ecosystem. And, if it proves to be valuable, Google could easily partner with Samsung or HTC to add more devices to the plan. 

That's a grand hippy idea. That's a Google idea. That's a Googley way to use hardware manufacturing capabilities. It may not be initially profitable, and would be expensive to keep the cost of devices down, but if any company could make it work, it would be Google. 

sources: (1) O3b, (2) WolframAlpha, (3) Reuter, (4) Invested Development, (5) PCWorld, (6) Zed Fibre, (7) IT News Africa, (8) Umbono, (9) The Next Web, (10) ReadWriteWeb, (11) Google Mobile Blog, (12) Reuters

images via MelkorDu, Gizmag, WolframAlpha



1. iKingTrust

Posts: 716; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

We love you google. Apple and Google, a perfect world.

52. shafboy

Posts: 179; Member since: Sep 26, 2010

I think Microsoft plays a huge part too actually, those three, rising competition and its amazing, but i want to see new companies become successful too.

2. bobfreking55

Posts: 866; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

This is the truth! Apple is greedy while Google wants to change the world! When the world changes, there wouldn't be anymore apple because google will eventually patent everything and buy off apple and create the iDroid and we will be all living in freedom because of Google! The Open Source World.

53. shafboy

Posts: 179; Member since: Sep 26, 2010

That won't happen and I hope it doesn't, imagine the whole world running the same phone, same OS and everything is the same. It will be boring as hell. No matter what brand.

57. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

I think Google is a great company, but I think its funny how everyone is fooled into believing that they are pure and faultless. Apple and Google are both companies and they both need income. Apple seeks to make profits through their products, Google makes profits from ads. Ads ads ads. The internet and ads are their main driving force and not your "freedom". Don't be fooled. I feel like Google has become what they set out to destroy (without even having destroyed it). They say that they didn't want only one choice and one OS to dominate the market and be the only choice for the consumers, but it seems like Android is the solution turned problem. Anyone not in a cult would easily see that Apple failing and leaving the market wouldn't be a good thing, just as Android never being created would have equally been bad, but in just a different way. A world with only Apple would be very totalitarian. Even though the devices would work well, look nice and be updated timely there would only be one or two devices with minimalistic updates. If there was only Android, there would be so many choices, but the updates would be so much worse as a result, there would be too many compatibility issues with the applications, and I'm sure an even lower quality of devices would follow. It would be like some kind of crazy communistic anarchy. I definitely feel like Apple and Android are balancing each other and you can see that by Apple adding features that they feel was important and Google emphasizing the eradication of fragmentation and also attempting to attract more consumers by bettering their application store and media accessibility. If Google every purchased Apple, which would be kinda impossible because they are the richest company in the world, that would spell bad news for the mobile industry. At least that's what I think

58. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

While I understand and agree with what you've said, I'm not sure I understand what prompted the comments. Given Google's failure with Buzz, deal-with-the-devil (aka Verizon), and the lawless spam of the Android Market, I'm not sure who can claim that Google is pure and faultless. I'm also not sure who (aside from over the edge fanboys, who we tend to ignore) is claiming that Android should be the only option in the market. Competition makes everyone better, so I'm certainly glad that iOS and WP7 exist (not so much for BB, but that's because RIM has yet to prove it can innovate.) Also, I'm not sure Google has enough money to buy Apple. I'm pretty sure there's only about 30 billion left, and that wouldn't cut it.

62. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

more competition the better. I would never wish apple gone from the market... well maybe bada (just kidding peter). Innovation is derived from need and from competition. Thats also the exact reason that people are getting pissed at apple. They arent suing to protect IP, they are suing to protect their shrinking market share by trying to ban competition from the marketplace instead of innovating their way back to the top.

64. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

You're not sure what prompted the comments? If you mean my comment we can easily see that bobfreking55 prompted my comments, if you mean bobfrekking55 then I have no idea what prompted the his comments either. There were about 8 people who agreed with bobfrekking55 (now there's 16) when I commented. His comment was over the edge and fanboyish but the fact that so many people agreed with it, made it unlike the majority of the fanboys that we tend to ignore. More people agree with bobfrekking55 than any other opinion/statement made in this thread. I'd say that's worth just a little attention at the least.

65. protozeloz

Posts: 5396; Member since: Sep 16, 2010

lol just noticed that comment

3. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

awesome article Michael. i have no bones to pick.. and thats saying something.. lol. Now, hopefully this will settle down Peter's doomsday prophesies that we all try to tell him is nonsense. :)

7. bobfreking55

Posts: 866; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

doomsday prophesies. Lol. I actually think Android is Freedom. Apple is the evil side and everything in between the mobile industry is the yin yang of some sort. Apple will make the i666 and the iBeast. Then we make the Droid Angel.

10. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Thanks! I worked really hard on this one to make sure it would be boneless.

4. PeterIfromsweden

Posts: 1230; Member since: Aug 03, 2011

"If Google were in this purely for profit, it wouldn't have been giving away Android all these years" My guess is... Google has been giving Android away for free for all these years, too make manufacturers want to use android, and to build a big ecosystem. When Android is big enough (which it is now), google kicks out the others, and makes exklusive Google phones. that way, google will earn much more money. Google is a business. Businesses are not charitys, they don't give stuff away for free without getting a profit from it.

5. bobfreking55

Posts: 866; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

Google will buy your bada and turn it into android if google starts focusing on the money. Do you want that? Google will rule everything. Lol.

6. Carter unregistered

"Businesses are not charitys, they don't give stuff away for free without getting a profit from it." And yet Google has been doing this for years.

9. bobfreking55

Posts: 866; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

and maybe for the next hundreds. We survive because the people want us and need us. Unlike the overpriced iOS devices.

13. PeterIfromsweden

Posts: 1230; Member since: Aug 03, 2011

You forgot this part "hen Android is big enough (which it is now), google kicks out the others, and makes exklusive Google phones."

23. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

yea, except that part isnt based in reality, fact, or has a remote chance of happening.

25. AppleFanboy

Posts: 142; Member since: Jun 07, 2011

LMAO, you guys are just a bunch of tools, you really think if Google wasn't profiting from Android they'd be "innovating" so much?? They might not be charging for Android directly, but trust me, indirectly, they make a big ass profit off of Android

42. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

google gives away android OS. That doesnt mean they arent making gobs of cash off of it. Noone is saying they dont. They make money off of liscencing google products to manufacturers like the market, maps, and such (they dont come on non liscenced android devices). They make money from the market as well from each app sold. They still make the bulk of their money through searching the internet, like they always have. Android is just another vehicle to drive searches through google. Thats what people like peter refuse to grasp. They arent apple or MS, they arent in it for massive profits per device. They are in it for massive profits off of ANY device. Android just basicaly gives them a dedicated advertising platform.

66. jake unregistered

Good for google making "goobs" of cash, however, its from the ads and people have a choice if they want to advertise or not with google, there is a choice and in the meantime we get great phones and OS. Unlike Apple if you want one of their products (and i'm not saying the product is bad) you basically get raped...period. And today you are seeing android phones from various mfg. with specs that far exceed iphone and for a better price. Alot more bang for the buck.

60. s unregistered

Sure ios 5 is real "innovating"

8. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

And your guess is based on what evidence from Google's past actions? Google is a business, but Google doesn't make its money from products like most businesses do. Google makes its money by getting more people to its ads either on the web or in Android apps. Google can use free products to bring in users and still make money.

12. protozeloz

Posts: 5396; Member since: Sep 16, 2010

many think Google gets a dollar every time someone clicks on an ad the truth is that Google does not need a click to get money, all they have to do is say they have millions of Gmail users that they have millions of website searches and millions of android users and companies will pay millions to get promoted in there just like peak hours on a TV Chanel boast lots of people wanting to occupy commercials the same occur with people wanting to use ads

14. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

And of course Google can target those ads for a higher price by using relevant data like location, search history, etc.

16. protozeloz

Posts: 5396; Member since: Sep 16, 2010

what I admire of Google its their great capability, Google indexed the internet and looking at the past IO gives you a clue that Google is actually looking for peoples complaints and trying to make them happy, its what they seem to be doing with all they do recently.

24. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

ya know, ive been telling him that over n over. he refuses to listen because then its not all roses for Bada. He wants android out of the way because he thinks then people will run to Bada. With Pete, all roads lead to bada and thats all there is. you dont need facts, u just need to convince everyone its a fact!! lol

36. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

At the risk of sounding superficial, I think Samsung would have a hard time marketing Bada in the English-speaking world. The first three letters are "bad", for crying out loud! I can see the review headlines now...

43. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

it will be more of a pun made by fandroids and iDiots poking at the bada system then anything marketing related, but yea.. i can see that.. lol

51. Stuntman

Posts: 843; Member since: Aug 01, 2011

It reminds me of the "Nova" automobile. It means "no go" in some languages. :) I guess Samsung should change the name of their OS to "Gooda" for English speaking markets. :)

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