Last week featured two seismic shifts in the tech world. First, Google announced its intention to acquire Motorola Mobility, which (if it goes through) will surely upend the competitive landscape for smartphones. Second, Hewlett-Packard very publicly killed its webOS hardware, including the TouchPad tablet, as part of a drastic refocusing on software and services.
What do both those events have in common? Microsoft immediately leapt to capture anyone left cold by the Google and HP maneuverings.
“To Any Published WebOS Devs,” Brandon Watson, Microsoft’s director of developer experience for Windows Phone, wrote in an Aug. 19 Tweet. “We’ll give you what you need to be successful on #WindowsPhone, incl. free phones, dev tools, and training, etc.”
Given how HP let the TouchPad live a mere six weeks before pulling the plug, there really wasn’t a lot of time for its developers to create much of an app store for webOS. But Microsoft has little to lose in trying to persuade those same developers-however few in number-to give its own smartphone platform a shot.
By Aug. 22, Watson claimed (again, via his Twitter feed) that some 1,000 interested webOS developers had sent emails.
Watson’s Tweet echoed a comment earlier in the week from Andy Lees, president of Microsoft’s Windows Phone Division, who responded to Google’s acquisition plans with a widely-circulated statement: “Investing in a broad and truly open mobile ecosystem is important for the industry and consumers alike, and Windows Phone is now the only platform that does so with equal opportunity for all partners.”
That statement plays on the possible fears of smartphone manufacturers that Motorola Mobility could become the favored child of the Android set. Indeed, following news of Google’s $12.5 billion bid, analysts hypothesized that just those fears could drive a second look at Windows Phone.
“The likes of Samsung, HTC and LG obviously don’t have any other choice than to say at this point that they welcome the deal,” Florian Mueller, an intellectual property analyst, wrote in an Aug. 15 posting on his blog. “But there’s no way that they can compete with a Google-owned Motorola Mobility on a level playing field.”
If Microsoft manages to exploit both the Google-Motorola and HP situations to attract developers and manufacturers, it could greatly help Windows Phone, which is currently struggling for market-share against the likes of Android and Apple’s iOS.