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(Enterprise) Mobility: It’s About Playing Chess, Not Checkers

It’s only Wednesday morning and it’s already been a crazy week.  Like many of you (I would assume), I spent the better part of Monday digesting the news regarding Google announcing its intention to buy Motorola.  Since the news came out, I can’t tell you how many people have called or emailed me to ask me my opinion on the deal, and more importantly its potential impact on the mobile landscape.

  • So is RIM dead?
  • Is Microsoft going to buy Nokia?
  • What’s up with HTC and Samsung?  Do you really believe they are happy with this deal?

Do any of these questions sound familiar?  Of course they are, because everyone is asking them and providing their own opinions on what the answers are…or at least should be.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to share with you an “executive summary” of what my responses have been….along with a little bit of the rationale behind them.  Here’s the net net:

  1. With every earthquake, there are aftershocks.  Google’s announcement was clearly a major shift in the tectonic plates of mobility.  The problem is, we don’t know when (or how large) the aftershocks will be.  Heck, sometimes the aftershocks can be almost as large as the original shift.  Sometimes they happen within hours of the first shock…and sometimes they can take months.  Hopefully there won’t be a tsunami with it.
  2. What we do know is that this deal was about IP.  The companies involved are not playing checkers.  They are playing Vulcan Chess!  (Check out the link if you don’t know what I am talking about)  This is an incredibly complex game with many different pieces on the chess board(s).

Here’s the rationale:

  • Does Microsoft need to buy Nokia now?  Not if Point #4 in this press release covers all their patents.
  • Are Samsung, HTC and LG as enthusiastic about this deal as they sound?  Heck no.
  • Does this mean they’re going to shift more towards Windows Phone 7?  Who knows.
  • Who’s interested in buying RIM? I’m not convinced they need to be bought out.
  • Is Google now truly protected from an IP perspective? They bought their way into a lawsuit from Microsoft.
  • What about the 3LM assets? What about them?
  • Who is going to buy who next?  If I knew, I wouldn’t tell you.

See where I am going with this?  There are simply way too many moving parts to be intelligently speculating from the sidelines.  Sure, it might be a fun intellectual exercise, but is it accretive?  Probably not.  Me personally, I am going to keep on focusing on my tasks at hand, while keeping my ear to the ground.  I may even invest in an earthquake early warning system.

7 Comments

  1. Posted August 17, 2011 at 09:35 | Permalink

    Great commentary as usual, Philippe. Some thoughts:
    - Goog may have “bought their way into a lawsuit from MS”, but that’s OK. They bought the IPR so they would have a patent defense in the counter-suing bonanza going on right now. Without IPR, Goog could neither defend Android nor its partners.
    - Kind words from Samsung, HTC etc are more than niceties. Samsung is staring at a $15/seat bill from MS for Android (HTC arguably got away cheap). Now the big fight begins to reduce these IPR fees.
    - The cross-suing bonanza will settle down – eventually. Cross-licensing deals will happen (even if as part of suit/counter-suit). The Android “community” is getting awful good at this game (HTC’s against Apple), and combined with Goog’s IPR assets, Android won’t be carrying such a big boat anchor.
    - Nice words from Samsung, etc are too nice. I might well be wrong, but I read between the lines that Rubin’s first calls were to his partners, offering assurances that MMI handsets won’t be part of Goog for too long.

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    • Posted August 17, 2011 at 09:39 | Permalink

      As usual Nick, you have some great commentary to share. However, I think you are looking at this glass half-full while I am looking at it half-empty. I genuinely feel as if Samsung/HTC and other OEMs are now saying to themselves “Damned if I do….Damned if I don’t.”

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  2. Posted August 17, 2011 at 09:49 | Permalink

    LOL. Not sure there are any “halves” in this equation. I would credit/applaud Google for their “community” approach and how that has rocked the mobile industry. As I’ve often opined, the PC OS wars boiled down to Microsoft and Apple. Mobile will boil down to Google and Apple (again). Instead of Wintel (Windows+Intel), this may be Quandroid (Qualcomm + Android).

    But if Google has a hand in devices, I personally think the Android community will break apart. As a start, you’ll see a renewed push from Samsung, HTC, etc for WP-based devices. WebOS may be worthy of consideration. Bada may well become interesting. But Android would break.

    There’s been a bunch of commentary out there that Google is trying to play the integrated game of Apple. Glass half-empty = they suck at hardware and would fail miserably in competing against Apple at its own game. No – follow the Wintel model of old. “Quandroid” will succeed in Mobile… unless you break the model!

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  3. Posted August 17, 2011 at 11:00 | Permalink

    This move may do one very important thing – it may clear the way for MS to buy Nokia or RIM. Why:
    - Comparatives and precedent: Mobile is big stakes, and investors will ask what MS is doing to win. RIM and Nokia are in the ball park of MMI, and a MS acquisition would no longer be deemed “crazy”.
    - MS is in a corner. Few believe they can replicate the runaway marketshare train of Android. Android’s community approach has won, for all intents and purposes. Microsoft has already been playing with devices (Zune etc), and has been thinking a long while about how to replicate Apple integrated model.
    - It has little to lose. It makes more on IPR for Android than WP licenses. It’s favorite tablet partner, HP, has its own OS.
    - Nokia makes the most sense as it just conceded OS in its deal with Microsoft. The two need each other the most.
    - RIM makes less sense (arguably) for the reasons Nokia makes sense, but RIM’s presence in enterprise can be well leveraged by MS.

    So – whatever happens with MMI device assets, it may be Microsoft’s turn and time to do something big.

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  4. Posted August 18, 2011 at 10:49 | Permalink

    It is impossible to determine clear paths of acquisition due to Goog/MM. But it does seems clear that Google now thinks the vertically integrated offering, a la Apple, is the better strategic play. Google tried the Windows 3.x play with semi-open Android, and perhaps its relative lack of control of outlets, partnerships, experience, security and message in that scenario was proving too vexing.

    If you buy into that idea, then perhaps the MSFT-Nokia makes sense, but MSFT now has the opportunity to re-play the Windows 3.x game v Apple AND Google if it wants. Will be fun to watch, and particularly interesting if you possess a key alliance with these three vendors (and who doesn’t?).

    One crazy idea, but if one wants to leapfrog Apple in terms of vertical integration, wouldn’t you want to add telecomms to your portfolio? You want to control “experience” end-to-end and establish margin controls to augment your position? Buy a carrier or three. E.g. when one buys an iPad in the USA you often opt-in to the AT&T service, one goes through a minor provisioning exercise where you are exposed to AT&T, and after that AT&T remains in the upper-left hand corner of a clearly iPad experience. Take that to the next logical step…

    iPad without access is a brick, right? Apple doesn’t control access, they are limited to partnerships in this arena. Big enterprise implications here too, not just consumers; not the first time this has been proposed.

    Oh what the heck, let’s really take this to the extreme: Let’s assume this all comes down to the battle of vertically-integrated experience control – the phone, the tablet, the laptop and desktop (Lenovo), the car (http://tinyurl.com/3pn9zfw), the provisioning of access (Sprint), the app development ecosystem (lots of plays), the app provisioning (Cloud-based of course), security/management and content.

    The Mobile Era stack – which pieces do you control directly and which pieces do you depend on alliances for? Google, Apple, Microsoft – GAMe on?. A fun stack-related blog post http://tinyurl.com/3d9zmyr

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    • Posted August 18, 2011 at 13:52 | Permalink

      “You want to control “experience” end-to-end and establish margin controls to augment your position? Buy a carrier or three.” <— Why not just go MVNO?

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