Did Motorola Buy a Mobile Operating System?

12 Comments

Motorola (s mot) is finding success with its Google (s goog) Android-powered Droid, but the handset maker’s co-CEO has previously indicated that he wants Motorola to have its own mobile operating system and supporting ecosystem. It may have found one, in the form of a Linux-based platform from Azingo. Android and Me notes that LinkedIn now shows an Azingo engineer as being employed by Motorola, potentially indicating that Motorola has purchased Azingo. Such an acquisition would provide Motorola with greater control over software offerings of future handsets, but more importantly, would help the company differentiate itself from competitors.

With such differentiation however, comes the challenge of creating a thriving ecosystem. By using Android for smartphones, Motorola currently enjoys the benefits of the Android developer community and the Android Market. If Motorola were to strike out on its own with a brand-new OS, however, it would lose those important benefits. And Motorola co-CEO, Sanjay Jha, clearly recognizes this, noting on the company first-quarter earnings call:

“I’ve always felt that owning your OS is important, provided you have an ecosystem, you have all the services and you have an ability and the scale to execute on keeping that OS at the leading edge. And I continue to believe that at some point, if we have all of those attributes, that owning our own OS will be a very important thing.”

Azingo’s mobile platform, which debuted in February of this year, is based on web standards for use on touchscreen devices and uses web runtimes for widgets. So if Motorola has indeed purchased the company, it could find itself able to quickly attract programmers that use HTML, CSS and JavaScript to develop mobile software for the Azingo platform. Such an approach is a growing trend in the mobile space — Palm (s palm) does it with webOS and the Symbian Foundation recently adopted the same web standards usage for mobile app development.

An early look at Azingo’s mobile platform from the 2009 Mobile World Congress shows a fairly robust set of widgets, a WebKit browser, extensive application suites and even support for Flash Lite (s adbe). Essentially, Azingo Mobile 2.0 is a full smartphone platform on its own, even without third-party software. There’s also specific mention of an App Store for Azingo apps, so if Motorola did purchase the company, it may have acquired not just a new mobile operating system, but the foundation of a supporting ecosystem as well.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

The App Developers Guide to Choosing a Mobile Platform

Image courtesy of Azingo

12 Comments

Keith Erskine

The secret here is BONDI which is a web-app/widget framework developed by the Open Mobile Terminal Project <omtp.org>. With BONDI you can develop applications by using HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Coupled with WAC, this could be a big win in a lot of world markets (I do hate the term “developing countries”)

Suman Gandham

No idea why buy a new OS for mobiles that develop Android with a better UI .

I been trying HTC SenseUI and works like a charm .

Kevin C. Tofel

I hacked HTC Sense on my Google Nexus One and throughly enjoy it, as it appears you do. But if Motorola simply uses the HTC Sense UI on its Android phones, how does that differentiate its handsets from those made by HTC, i.e.: Incredible, EVO, Desire, etc… ? Put another way: why would a carrier choose to market and sell a Motorola handset with Sense UI over an HTC handset with Sense UI?

suzy

Not quite true— a company can easily do what HTC has with the SenseUI and create a totally new/makes you stand out interface that consumers really like/prefer and still gain the benefits of the Android ecosystem.

Kevin C. Tofel

Exactly correct and Motorola has actually done that to some degree with its MotoBlur interface on the Cliq and Devour.

JJ

Business 101: If Motorola, Samsung, HTC all run Android the only differentiating factor is the hardware. Any new feature they add to the hardware – 40 Megapixel camera, 1080p screen resolution can easily be replicated in a few months by any of the others. Its a race to the bottom.

Having a unique OS (that works well too) that is tightly integrated to your platform is the way to differentiate your phone from the rest.

It is in Google’s interest to commoditize the hardware. It is in Motorola’s interest not to commoditize its high end phones.

Nicholas

You are correct. There is a second danger however, where there are too many OSes for the market. How will people develop across platforms other than web? This may push standards based web app development which I believe will happen. But, the top three are the winners per usual, and what are they?

The next twelve months should prove fascinating!

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