I’ve seen a few pieces now claiming that the Google/Motorola deal will be a disaster, for various reasons. Some claim that Google simply won’t get the hardware business, because it is “too messy”. Others are claiming that Google mess up customer service, or they won’t really get how to work with carriers, etc. etc. While I’m not going to claim that it will definitely be a success, I would say that it is more likely to succeed than fail. Why? Simple: Google is staffed with smart, imaginative and creative people, and they live in a corporate culture that fosters and encourages those traits. Google isn’t a large corporation driven slavishly by data analysis and market research, living and dying by customer focus groups that are often skewed or tainted to get the “right” results. They do seem to be putting a bit more thought into their services than they have in the past, and they did have a history of letting things out the door rather early. Google has learned from those mistakes. That isn’t to say they won’t make more of them. But they seem to be balancing the enthusiasm with a bit of critical thought.
My other thinking is that we’ve heard these sorts of things before, about Apple. People didn’t think Apple could do well in the MP3 player space, particularly with a product that we more expensive than competing devices. Pundits and experts figured Apple would crash and burn in the smartphone space. Those same pundits figured that the iPad was going to be a disaster. Apple’s only recent stumble was the first-generation AppleTV, which Apple downplayed by calling it a “hobby”. Even the second-generation unit is still a “hobby”, but for a hobby, it has done spectacularly well, given that it showed that Apple learned a lot of lessons from the first go at it. So, how do the experts and pundits stack up against their predictions for Apple? They’re batting .000 right now. The iPod owned the MP3 space. The iPhone set standards that other manufacturers are still trying to meet, and went from nothing to one of the biggest players in the market in a year or so. The iPad has been a stand-out success, creating what is essentially a new market out of nothing and changing the way people think of personal computing.
Google is similar, in some ways, to Apple. Both foster creativity and imagination. Both are staffed with very, very smart people who have pretty healthy egos about what they do. One big difference is that Apple’s direction is largely controlled by Steve Jobs. Google isn’t dominated as much by top management, but I don’t see that as a big liability. In some ways, it’s good for Google, because they aren’t reliant on a single person, and the health and welfare of that single person isn’t perceived as applying to the entire company. That could change over time, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
So, will Google/Motorola be an unmitigated disaster, as some are expecting? Possibly, but I consider it highly unlikely. Will it be a stand-out success, resulting in a company that rivals Apple? Quite possibly, but that will take a bit of time. I won’t say it is 100% certain to be a success, but I don’t see it likely as a huge failure. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say there’s a 1-in-5 change this does end up poorly (but not necessarily an all-out disaster) but I give them an 80% shot at making it work, and making it work well. Apple made it work in areas they were supposed to fail at, and made it work well. I fully expect Google will too.