Over on CNN, one writer posits that the Google/Motorola deal may not result in better phones. Along with enumerating the risks of driving handset makers to Microsoft (which they are already supporting, not sure how this gets them more), the concern by the author is that Google’s phones may not be any better than what’s out there. While that is possible, I think it is far more likely that the Google phones will be better, not just in terms of features, but in terms of quality and overall integration. Why? Because Google’s ego won’t allow it to do otherwise. Google is, in many ways, a lot like Apple: very certain on the “rightness” of what they do and how they do it, and that they (as a company) are some of the smartest guys in the room. They do a far better job of appearing humble. The company has a quiet confidence, and is often not one to state things in expansive or “world changing” terms. Google easily has the potential to produce something “magical”: the difference is that, unlike Apple, they won’t claim that it is. Apple is about bold actions and bold statements. Google is about quiet statements, but still believing in bold action.
Take Google+ as an example: no sane person would have tried to take on Facebook. Received wisdom says that it would be futile, they own the market, and trying to take them down would be pointless. But guess what? Google+ has a pretty healthy adoption rate, considering it is still technically a closed beta. It is getting buzz, it is getting talked about and people seem to want it. I haven’t been able to use it myself (no invites yet), but from what I’ve seen, Google+ is being well received, and it appears to be better liked than Facebook. The closed beta and invite-only approach appears to be building hype all on its own, and Google doesn’t need to issue expansive or bold statements about trying to take over. They made that mistake in the past with Wave, and now they seemed to have learned. They have figured out that they need to meet or exceed the leader, but don’t brag about what you’re going to do: just get it done.
Okay, I am going to hedge just a little bit. Google isn’t above letting things out in the wild without it having a few rough edges. In fact, a lot of their earlier attempts at new services seemed a bit half-baked. However, they have evolved over the years, and recent products and services have had a more polished feel than in the past. I think Google management has realized that customers expect more out of the company, and that the half-baked betas and early releases need to be much closer to “product” than they used to allow. My guess: Google realizes that they will need to be as good as Apple on some of the intangibles, like look and feel, and not just “good enough”. As long as Google realizes that consumers don’t care as much about tech specs as they do about how the device looks and works, then I would say that this deal should result in better phones, and a meaningful competitor to Apple. It should allow Google to stand up and be perceived as a leader, rather than Apple having that spotlight to themselves. The egos at Google likely won’t settle for anything less.