In my just-published piece about the Google/Motorola deal, I focused on the mobile space, primarily tablets and smartphones. However, this deal has bigger implications that I hinted at a bit in the other post. Google getting Motorola’s mobility group is more than just about Google being able to build a Google-branded smartphone or tablet. This also could have implications on the PC and server space. Why? Because Google is getting more than just some company that makes handsets. What they are getting is manufacturing capacity for building large numbers of electronic devices.
Google is in the midst of an experiment with ChromeOS, relying on other PC manufacturers to build ChromeOS notebooks and netbooks. Google provides the software, in the same way Microsoft provides the OS to Dell, HP and Lenovo. But, Google still relies on other companies to build the hardware, and they have limited control over the industrial design or the overall user experience. They have to rely on others to port drivers and make sure various devices work properly, and Google can’t control the quality of those.
Being able to build their own handsets means they also have the infrastructure to start building their own notebooks, netbooks and possibly even desktops and servers. I fully expect Google will put some real effort into the industrial design of upcoming smartphones and tablets, but that also means they can apply that to PC’s in various forms. They will no longer be beholden to other companies to build the hardware, and they can control the quality as well as the user experience from end to end. So far, Apple is the only company out there that does that. Apple has put a lot of thought and effort into the hardware, and because they control it all, they can ensure that the hardware and software work together, and work properly. Apple’s control allows them to build a device like the Macbook Air, because they can do what they need to in MacOS to support the devices they want inside the package. It’s harder for guys like Dell or HP to do the same thing, because the operating system is largely out of their control.
For Google devices, the limitations won’t be there. Google, like Apple, can tune or modify ChromeOS or Android to work on the hardware as they see fit. This will allow them to experiment with the machines and build using components that either are hard to integrate for Windows, or are too expensive to use because “making it fit” is costly. They can use custom busses and custom storage because they can go as deep as they need to in the software to make it work. Guys like Dell just can’t do that.
The deal also gives them access to facilities, and people with knowledge and experience in electronics manufacturing, to start to work on the server side, and potentially start moving into the server room. Google has done a lot to put services and such in the cloud, but I would think they are smart enough to know that not all companies are going to put their data or computing in the cloud. Some can’t because of legal or regulatory requirements, and some won’t simply out of principle. However, if Google can provide a seamless, scalable and secure environment, and that environment is end-to-end from the server through to the end-user devices, and it’s cost-effective, they could gain some ground on the enterprise side of the equation. Better yet, if someone starts with some components in Google’s facilities, and can easily and transparently move it to their own infrastructure, that becomes very interesting. It means I can start with free or cheap cloud-based services from Google, and migrate it into my own datacenter over time (giving me more control over capacity and uptime), hopefully with minimal pain and cost. I don’t know for sure if that is the way they would want to go, but I see the possibilities being available.
If they aren’t already, the PC side of Apple, Lenovo, Dell and HP should be paying attention the Google/Motorola deal. They should, not just because of what it could mean in the mobile computing space. It could also start to affect the PC space, because there could be a highly-capable new entrant into the desktop, notebook and server space lurking around the corner.