HP CEO Suggests Google Could Make Android A Closed-Source OS For Motorola, Like Apple’s iOS

One of the Android community’s long-standing bragging rights over Apple’s iOS is that Android is an open-source platform. But HP CEO Meg Whitman suggests that Google’s acquisition of Motorola could mean that Android could become proprietary to Motorola devices, just as iOS is to Apple gadgets.

Oh, how the wheel turns!

At the recent HP Global Partner conference in Las Vegas, HP CEO Meg Whitman talked candidly about Google’s soon-to-be purchase of Motorola Mobility, and that they could mean for the Android platform as we know it. Information Week reports: “When Google announced its intent to purchase Motorola Mobility for $ 12.5 billion, there was an immediate fear that Google would close the OS and work only with Motorola moving forward. Other hardware makers voiced support for the deal publicly, but you can be sure they were cursing behind closed doors. Ever since, Google has said over and over that Android will remain an open platform. HP CEO Meg Whitman isn’t so sure. Speaking to attendees of the HP Global Partner conference in Las Vegas, reports PC World, Whitman contended that “the industry needs another OS,” and went on to suggest that Google may change its mind once it owns Motorola.”

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While many in the media are characterizing the acquisition of Motorola by Google as a move designed primarily to scoop up the company’s valuable patents in the ever-widening courtroom battles between technology companies, Whitman’s suggestion that Google could make future iterations of the Android platform available only to Motorola devices would further corroborate the alternate theory about the Google-Motorola fusion: Google will convert Motorola into a clone of Apple from a business structure standpoint, giving them the opportunity to design, build, and market a completely in-house set of mobile devices with completely proprietary software.

In this way, Google could match Apple tit for tat in all of their product and service offerings.

To be fair, Meg Whitman has an agenda, and in many ways, her musings may be little more than wishful thinking and sneaky self-promotion. HP, after all, is looking to peddle its own OS — webOS — as an alternative not to Apple’s iOS, but rather to Android. Information Week gives us some background: “WebOS floundered under HP’s ownership, and last August the company announced that it would cease making webOS smartphones and tablets–mere weeks after launching the webOS-powered TouchPad. The company announced its intent to open source the platform in December. Since then, it has begun making individual components available to the community, though the entire OS isn’t expected to become available until September of this year.”

webOS will not compete on a manufacturing level with iOS, and only slightly on the retail level, since iOS is part of a tightly-marketed “Apple ecosphere,” which consumers either buy into or they don’t. And because no other tech manufacturers can use iOS other than Apple, webOS only has to vie against Android in this way. Thus, if Whitman can scare the tech community enough into thinking that Google could abandon them down the road, they might look to start building some devices for the new webOS.

But the question is, are tech manufacturers buying it?

Probably not, and the reason is that Google may have much more to lose in close-sourcing Android than they could ever gain from funneling all of their mobile focus through Motorola. Android’s business model is predicated on it being open source and available to a wide range of manufacturers. If Apple’s business model is a rifle, then Google Android’s is a shotgun.

And to wit, the Android approach would seem on paper to be a safer business than what Apple employs. The x-factor in Apple’s success thus far hasn’t been a superior business model necessarily, but rather the ability to leverage Steve Jobs’ cult of personality, the innovation and uniqueness of Apple devices, and a marketing department that really knows hw to mange buzz and vibe in intangible ways. It is a “vertical” approach to marketing that works in a world that is mostly dominated by big corporations effectively using “horizontal” marketing schemes.

And Android has managed to that rather well, which is probably why close-sourcing the platform isn’t going to happen in the near future. In fact, given the huge changes in Apple in the wake of Steve Jobs’ death, one has to wonder: will iOS someday be open source?

By Michael Nace



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