Manufacturing still matters
Volume is key. Apple knows this with its Foxconn relationship. Google has its relationship with Asus for the Nexus 7 tablet and the Nexus 5 phone, but Motorola could not tap into that relationship. The purchasing power from building PCs, notebooks and tablets that Asus, Foxconn, Samsung and Lenovo have gives the manufacturer access to the pricing that is needed for the phone market. This is even more relevant with the move to larger screens on ‘phablets’. Under Google, Motorola could not access those volumes.
The consumer market is not enough for smartphones
Motorola historically is a consumer brand, and had done well in the consumer markets – “Hello Moto”, anyone? But the Lenovo deal is demonstrating the increasing importance of the enterprise market. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a key driver for smartphones and one that Motorola has not been able to tap in recent years. Lenovo’s enterprise experience and customers will play well here.
Watch out Nes t
What the Lenovo deal says is that Google does not have, or want, the manufacturing volume to compete in the consumer market. This has implications for its recent deal to acquire the Nest intelligent home developer. Expect Google to build up its knowledge about how people use Nest and similar devices, and stimulate the smart home market – which is still nascent – with innovative new devices. Nest will then be sold to a consumer company with the manufacturing muscle to make it fly, while Google keeps a core group of highly talented design engineers.
Partners are as important as patents
Google spent nearly $9bn of the patents it acquired with Motorola Mobility and is keeping them top protect the Android eco-system. With the heritage of the laptop businesses of TI and IBM (remember those?), Lenovo has a bank of patents that will also be useful for Google to access, as well as licensing the Motorola