Google Is Getting Its Mobile House in Order

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-05-23 Print this article Print

But that pesky problem with fragmentation is hurting Android and that€™s something that Google needs to get a handle on before it starts to result in customer defections. And that€™s where the Motorola acquisition comes in. Instead of being a competitor to other makers of Android devices, Motorola provides what can best be described as a reference platform.

This is especially the case if Google follows through with its plans to sell phones directly to customers and not just through carriers. This would mean that the Motorola versions of Android phones would be pure Android, without all of the proprietary and mostly useless bloatware that shows up on the phones sold by carriers€“with settings that keep it from being removed. Users could buy a phone with no contract, and use it with the carrier of their choice.

Right now, of course, that means two major carriers in the United States. If you have a GSM version of a phone from Google, you can use it with AT&T or T-Mobile (or one of several regional GSM carriers). If you have a CDMA version of a Motorola phone from Google, you can use it on Verizon and Sprint. Of course, there is the question of how the growth of 4G communications will affect the mobile phone market. While it will affect the CDMA world, it won€™t really have an impact on GSM phones.

Right now, T-Mobile is in the process of re-farming its 4G signals so they share the same frequency bands as AT&T. This process is partly complete and when it€™s done you€™ll be able to use any HSPA+ phone on either carrier€™s network. This is how things already work in Europe, where this interoperability and lack of proprietary bands means lower costs for wireless communications.

There will still be some accommodation that needs to be made for LTE, but today€™s smartphones already have radios that cover a wide selection of bands, so this probably isn€™t insurmountable. In addition, there are already more and more dual-mode phones. Verizon Wireless, for example, sells a number of devices that handle both CDMA and GSM modes so they can be used globally.

All this doesn€™t mean that there isn€™t a cloud in sky for Google€™s business prospects. It still is facing a potentially huge fine in Europe on charges that it has abused its search dominance. Even U.S. regulators are keeping a wary eye on Google€™s business moves from an antitrust standpoint.

This week€™s news on the mobility front means that life is good if you€™re Google. Your path is clear, your enemies vanquished, your plans are in place. So the next question has to be, how is Google going to execute on this new opportunity? One hopes that the company won€™t find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but you never know. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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