Google has "built firewall" round Motorola, says Rubin
Android chief insists he knows nothing about Motorola products, while chairman Schmidt sees "Android in every pocket"
Published: 1 March, 2012
Despite reports that Google plans to replace Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha with one of its own veterans, Dennis Woodside, once the acquisition closes, the firm continues to insist it will run its handset unit at arm's length to assuage rival vendors' fears that Moto will get preferential access to Android advances.
Andy Rubin, Google's SVP for mobile, told reporters at Mobile World Congress that he was "painfully aware" of the OEMs' concerns, but said that Google had "literally built a firewall" between the Android team and Motorola. "I don't even know anything about their products, I haven't seen anything," he added, as reported by The Verge. "They're going to continue building Motorola branded devices and it's going to be the same team doing it."
He also insisted that the open nature of Android made it hard for Google to play favourites, though this might be disputed in light of the way the Honeycomb release was handled, with an inner circle of partners getting early access to the tablet OS. More realistically, he pointed out that Motorola was fairly small compared to some Android players, and so it would be hard for Google to use the handset unit to dominate other licensees, as well as damaging to the reach of its OS. "Even if I was completely insane, it wouldn't make any sense for me to think that we could get Motorola to be 90-plus percent market share," he said. "It just isn't gonna happen."
He also wants 2012 to be the year when Android "doubles down" on tablets and catches up with Apple, partly by spending more time educating developers. Samsung executive Hankil Yoon admitted in Barcelona that the firm was "not doing very well in the tablet market", despite having several variants in its Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Note ranges. The most successful Android tablet to date has been the Amazon Kindle Fire, which Google regards with mixed feelings since the online retailer has its own app store and user interface, which largely bypasses the Google experience and services.
In a blog post this week, Rubin said 850,000 new Android devices are activated each day, and that the total number of Android devices around the world is now more 300m, up from 250m reported in January.
Google's chairman Eric Schmidt, in his own keynote, said there would be an Android device in every pocket if the search and advertising company "gets it right". Lower device costs would be essential to that goal, and he predicted that, once there was a $70 smartphone, that would be an inflection point for a new volume market. In future, even in markets without internet connectivity, cheap Android devices could form meshes, talking to each other in a peer-to-peer fashion to create virtual communities and "digital watering holes".
Unusually, Schmidt was sympathizing with the telcos, saying: "It's very difficult to be a telecom operator right now. It's a difficult regulatory environment, difficult to raise your tariff plans, and you have to upgrade to 4G when it's difficult to raise capital. And all the while customers are using enormous amounts of data and governments are charging loads for more bandwidth". But he insisted cellcos would recoup costs as use of advanced data services grew, and made no concessions to the demands by various operators - heard every year in Barcelona - that web players like Google should help bear the burden of network build-outs, since they reaped many of the benefits.