August is typically regarded as one of the slower months, at least when it comes to tech news.
But this August? Not so much.
It started with Google’s announced intent to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, a move that (if approved) will fundamentally alter the smartphone game.
“We recently explained how companies, including Microsoft and Apple, are banding together in anti-competitive patent attacks on Android,” Google CEO Larry Page wrote in an Aug. 15 corporate blog posting, soon after news of the intended acquisition became public. “Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.”
The question is whether the acquisition will disturb other device manufacturers enough to sway them away from Android. Microsoft certainly hopes so, with company executives raising the specter of Motorola Mobility as Google’s favored child-while promoting the idea of Windows Phone as an equal-opportunity software platform. “Investing in a broad and truly open mobile ecosystem is important for the industry and consumers alike,” Andy Lees, president of Microsoft’s Windows Phone division, wrote in a statement soon after Google announced its news, “and Windows Phone is now the only platform that does so with equal opportunity for all partners.”
Google’s move could also drive competitors into buying frenzies of their own. “RIM suddenly becomes very valuable for its patent horde,” Ray Wang, principal analyst and CEO of Constellation Research, wrote in an Aug. 15 email to eWEEK. “HP, Apple or Microsoft should quickly move to buy RIM for its patents and also [BlackBerry Enterprise Server], the crown jewel.”
If that wasn’t enough excitement for the tech community, Hewlett-Packard then decided to announce it was changing course, with plans to shed its PC manufacturing arm on the way to becoming an enterprise-focused software and services company in the mold of IBM.
As part of that shift, two of HP’s most prominent recent projects-its TouchPad tablet and nascent smartphone franchise-would need to die.
“HP reported that it plans to announce that it will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad [tablet] and webOS phones,” read the August 18 statement released by the company ahead of its most recent earnings call. “HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward.”
Some analysts saw HP’s move away from PCs as indicative of a larger trend within the industry.
“HP just abdicated playing a role in the mobility revolution except from the air-conditioned comfort of the cloud data center. This move makes Google’s acquisition of Motorola look prescient,” Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe wrote in an Aug. 19 research note. “We are witnessing the final collapse of the Silicon Valley PC era.”
As with IBM when it executed a similar transition, the hurdles facing HP are immense. “HP is reforming as much more of a broad software company more like Microsoft/Oracle than even IBM,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderle Group, wrote in an Aug. 18 email to eWEEK. “In effect, they are repeating what IBM did with Palmisano and what Apple did with Jobs in that the new HP will be optimized for their new CEO.”
But HP will have to bulk up its software and services muscle in the face of what will surely be aggressive countermoves from the likes of Oracle and IBM.
Evidently, the fates didn’t think that Google and Hewlett-Packard made August enough of a roller coaster, so they threw in a third major event: Apple CEO Steve Jobs resigning his post.
In a letter to Apple’s board of directors and employees, Jobs suggested he could “no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO.” He asked the board to activate a prearranged succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO-a familiar role for the latter, considering he’s stepped in as interim chief whenever Jobs’ longstanding health issues drove him to take medical leave.
At this early stage, analysts generally seem to think that Apple will more than survive its co-founder handing off the reins to Cook.
“Apple has been run by a team of very accomplished visionaries that includes Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, Jonathan Ive, Scott Forestal, Ron Johnson and a host of others,” Carl Howe, an analyst with the Yankee Group, wrote in an Aug. 25 blog posting. “Steve was [the] public face of the company, but we shouldn’t think that he was the only one making all the decisions.”
Indeed, Apple is widely expected to release its next-generation iPhone (widely dubbed the “iPhone 5” by the media) in either September or October, following that with the next iPad sometime in early 2012.
With an August this busy, people in tech might need September to recuperate.