Smartphones

Google's secret weapon to take down Cupertino and Redmond

Google is about to take possession of a software weapon that it could fire at Apple and Microsoft, but it's unclear whether it will push the button.

While the technology industry remains baffled about why Google decided to acquire Motorola Mobility, I have spotlighted one of the key assets that is largely being overlooked in the deal: Motorola's Webtop software. In an in-depth report for TechRepublic's sister site CNET, you can read about how Webtop snuck up on the tech world, the power of Webtop 2.0, and my analysis of how Google could effectively use Webtop to give Android a big boost in its race against Apple and Microsoft in the post-PC world.

This topic also has major enterprise implications as well. If Google were to integrate Webtop into the next version of Android then it would create a huge market of smartphones that could dock and serve as thin client devices, accessing the Web and Citrix. These PC replacements could pose a big challenge to the stranglehold that Microsoft Windows has on the enterprise.

Read the full story.

Photo credit: Jason Hiner/CNET

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

49 comments
imnotrich
imnotrich

Tablets, Ipads, Smartphones will NEVER replace the PC desktop or laptop for getting serious work done, they're convenient and fun little toys but unless you're a lilliputian keyboard and screen sizes designed for humans-and average human visual acuity-will remain approximately the same. I can type 80wpm on a regular keyboard. Maybe 5wpm on a smartphone. Which, then, do you think my employer will expect me to use? Now Windows 8 (like Ubuntu's disaster known as Unity) is designed for pads and smartphones, not pc's. The interface is not intuitive and requires more work/keystrokes/touches to get the same work done as previous guis. How's that going to impact productivity? Need an app for Windows 8? Forget about any of the software you've paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for. None of it will run under Windows 8. Nothing. Your only source of software? The new Microsoft App store. Programs must be written specifically for Windows 8, approved by Microsoft, and sold at the M$ app store. Expect Microsoft to drop support for their best OS ever (XP), as well as the turkeys known as Vista and 7. Businesses and individuals will be forced to seek alternatives (apple, linux) and Microsoft will die. Wait for it.

ben
ben

"While the technology industry remains baffled about why Google decided to acquire Motorola Mobility," Any who is baffled hasn't been paying much attention to what's been going on in the mobile device sector, nor studied the Motorola patent portfolio. As various vendors' lawyers are sueing each other over patent claims, Google aquired the largest portfolio of foundation technology patents around mobile devices that exists. Not to mention the team that has consistently created innovative products. Could have started out with "ANOTHER innovation from Motorola that is largely overlooked..."

ThePickle
ThePickle

The only one living is a "post PC world" is Jason Hiner.

naebeth
naebeth

As much as I would love for Android to have a built-in desktop OS I could use for simple tasks like watching videos, making Word documents and managing emails, Webtop was such a disappointment that I'm not sure I'd trust version 2 even if developed by the Android team themselves. Ubuntu, however, is a proven desktop OS that already has a host of programs available and a very efficient support infrastructure in place. They are also currently developing a mobile version to run alongside Android thanks to recent advances in merging the Android and Linux kernels.

ufbobby
ufbobby

It's still doesn't run Windows... and lets be honest... that is a deal breaker for business.

CYBERSUN
CYBERSUN

100 % in agreement with Mr. Marcelo. If MOTOROLA had such a killer why didn't they go for the jugular themselves? Now GOOGLE has a long way to go to shake out MS positions. MS may have flaws but it is consistently improving in an ordained and discilined manner all of its flaws without disrupting too strongly its loyal client base. I have tried GOOGLE CHROME, GOOGLE TOOL BAR and SEARCH ENGINES, and I cannot see any benefits compared to IE9 and BING. None.

gphoto45
gphoto45

I can see the headlines now!! "Google was offline today -1000 smartphone cluster servers crashes!" Video on Youtubes,, watch it with your hardline!

Non-techie Talk
Non-techie Talk

Why must everything be some kind of "competition killer"? Steve Jobs told his people that Apple does not need Microsoft to fail in order to be successful, and it's clear he was pretty right. Does BMW spout off that some new technology will kill Mercedes-Benz? Or vice-versa? Does McDonald's lose sleep worrying about what Burger King is up to? Google, Apple, Microsoft and others all occupy space in the marketplace, and there's room for all of them (somehow, they are all making money in varying number of boatloads). Not one of them requires the demise of the other in order to continue to return value to their respective shareholders. In fact, it is competition that drives innovation. The less competition, the less impetus to innovate (remember MSIE 6? Yeah, I'm trying to forget it, too).

gphoto45
gphoto45

Not quite sure why, but I have issues with using your smartphone to replace your computer. Guess I have had to too many issues with having to lean out of the car, or go to a cubical near a window to get a connection that wasn't garbled. Sure puts a BSOD (hurt) on editing a 30 page spreadsheet. Spent a lot of time trying to find someone running AutoCad, designing buildings on their smart phone. Don't know a lot of netadmin that pick up their smart phone, and remote into a desktop with a malware problem. I do personally know one lady that edited orders from a large food supplier, that tried using her smart phone to adjust an order. What a waste of 8 hours! Short of getting your emails, twitting, blogging and following your friends on Facebook, I think you should get off the kick of using a smart phone for a computer, and just try and get one that lets you make a decent phone call.

cmoyer33
cmoyer33

I use the Webtop with my Atrix/Lapdock combo and absolutely love it! Sure it has a LONG way to go but it is the beginning of what could be great! Having my computer's processor and hard drive in my pocket is great! I just wish it could transfer the information wirelessly and have integration into all computers weather Windoze, crApple, Android, Chrome OS or Linux desktops, laptops, netbooks, etc ( so I hope to see this built into Android and Chrome OS). It would be great if I could go somewhere and simply sit it down next to a PC and have the ability to bring up "my webtop" on any computer be it at work, mother's, friend's, etc. It doesn't matter where or who's computer it is, I can just sit it down near the computer and bring up my Webtop onto any PC and it can do it wirelessly so I don't need to carry around a cord or thin "brainless" lapdock. It would be a step better than keeping a USB drive of a Linux distro in my pocket all the time. My phone is my storage drive, my PC, my whole house remote control, my wallet, notes, calendar, reminders, coupons, game system, (key to start my car...hopefully someday soon), etc...so make it more integrated and that's what the Webtop STARTS to provide. Zman

macmanjim
macmanjim

Isn't sticking with the traditional desktop OS. IOS and Mac OS will be converged into one OS that is basically IOS. Mac OS 10.8 coming out this summer has a lot of IOS features. With Apple releasing version updates every year now, Mac OS 11, which will be the converged OS will be out in two years. The thing to understand is that this is a very mature OS, it's been well thought out and has the support of the App Store, with millions of applications that span iPhones, iPads, iPods and then laptops and desktops. What does motorola offer? Will Google make a difference?

PeterM42
PeterM42

They didn't buy Motorola for the quality of their phones. Come to that, NOBODY buys Motorola for the quality of their phones. Pity, because they used to be the best. How the mighty have fallen!!

cfc2000
cfc2000

Motorola has a history of virtually giving away its developments just before they come to proper fruition. Remember the iridium project? The accountants made them sell that for 11 million dollars, even though it had cost billions to develop. A venture firm bought it and it still makes loads of money, but not for Motorola. Google bought Motorola for its ideas and technical expertise, knowing that the accountants running Motorola had no respect for its engineers. And those same accountants farmed out work to China when production was cheaper, but of such poor quality that the products gained a reputation for unreliability. As you can guess, members of my family worked for them before they were made redundant! Google got years of technical developments and patents, and this latest move is one of many new things coming.

Fravio
Fravio

I can't maintain an SO with a lot of bugs, crashes and malwares in a company using it as the main platform. No way. Maybe in the future. For now, I prefer the stability of Windows 7 controlled with a nice directory and management services... Everybody "forgets" MS and IBM IT management services.

Qatarian
Qatarian

Sounds good, however, will I still be able to play WoW?!?

Babur
Babur

All other aspects aside, from my personal experience of having used half a dozen high end android devices, corporate doesn't want to invest into something which inherently have 'performance, stability + security issues'. On top of that 'fragmentation' of the OS make things pretty difficult for IT departments. In near future, OEMs may start to market products based on 'forked out android' of their own, cutting Google altogether from the picture, which incidentally doesn't have much control anyway. Lately, I have been thinking about, how come a 'copycat' OS become so popular, and TBH I could come up with only two viable reasons: a) it is free, and b) it is customizable. Otherwise (in mobile space) iOS is far superior, followed closely by WP (which IMO is the most efficient OS of these) hell in most tasks my Lumia 800 beats Sensation Z710e I own, hands down (which continuously suffers from famous android 'lag' along with crashes randomly thrown in, just like all other droids I've owned over the years). So all things said, it is okay to have a 'toy' which wouldn't work at times, but that is about it where its utility ends.

saprod_sj
saprod_sj

The Apple crowd hasn't seen the future. While the rest of the world is innovating, Apple is sticking with tried and true. The webtop dynamic will bring all sorts of mobile abilities to the workforce, by giving workers the ability to handle tasks without the need for tracking down wifi signals, using two separate devices that aren't integrated, and still manage to take calls while docked. The Ubuntu piece is nice, but you need to tether still. With the Motorola webtop, this is an integrated platform that just works. This is proving to be a popular feature, that Asus is also doing the same. With third party developers creating the software (Cisco, WebEx, Goto, etc...), businesses will have the necessary tools to deploy to the field.

meanppt
meanppt

Google isn't a serious candidate for any entreprise product, due to its naturally messy and reckless security and business privacy. As an OS, Android it's flimsy and the same will apply to that webtop. Better full fledged linux are jumping in (look at ubuntu and to what the KDE comunity are doing). MS itself isn' dormant and full fledged slated W8 machines are already around.

bukshanekom
bukshanekom

I can't figure out why I would ever ditch my MacBook with 750GB HDD + 8 GB Ram + i7 Processor to carry around a dumb screen, keyboard, and trackpad. This is like Lego, its way cool, extremely fun to play with and you can build an amazing looking Imperial Battle Cruiser with it, but at the end of the day its just a toy space ship.

The Management consultant
The Management consultant

The article has does not clearly communicate value to the consumer.It would be helpful to spell out how the Google smartphone user will leverage the software?

The Management consultant
The Management consultant

The article has does not clearly communicate vale to the consumer.It would be helpful to spell out how the Google smartphone user will leverage the software?

markofealing
markofealing

Ubuntu for Andriod was launched fairly recently, allows dual booting of your Andriod smartphone phone. If you choose Ubuntu you get the full Linux Ubuntu desktop without the need of a thin client. All you need is a phone dock to connect to a Monitor, Keyboard and mouse. Really a cool solution and no Google Adware or data mining to help drain your battery, or make it charge more slowly! http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/android http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_for_Android

kalanaya
kalanaya

I have a Droid Razr GSM UMTS version, the webtop is a really nice piece of kit and I do not see any difference between the so called Chromium OS and webtop. And withe the recent development of Google chrome browser being able to sync everything in itself all across the other chrome browsers the same user has logged on to google has taken a step towards what Jason is referring to. But when it comes to practicality, i do not like the way the docs are designed. I with they will come up with a new design other than the Micro USB slot and Mini HDMI socket design. I would suggest contact strips along the edge or a total wireless solution. At the ridiculous price of a webtop doc they should be able to provide a more userfriendly design. BEST OF LUCK GOOGLE! * BTW Samsung has beaten up NOKIA in handset sales. I think that is a good sign of how stressful the Android market penetration is. as NOKIA has refused using Android and adopted Windows mobile. (Win mobile has killed every smart phone company that used it as OS, only HTC survived, also thanks to Android).

simonh
simonh

How is this a significant leap from something like the ASUS PadPhone? It's just another brainless laptop chassis waiting for it's master. About as revolutionary as a laptop was when they were brought to market in the 80s - and look at how they killed the traditional desktop PC... Innovation please? ZZZzzz...

MrMarcelo
MrMarcelo

The concept of "Webtop" is nothing new. It's been around for a long while, so I fail to see how this is any sort of Microsoft or Apple killer. Motorola's attempts failed because of a number of factors, among them cost, OS platform (in other words, it was neither a good phone OS nor a good desktop OS), and processing capability of the chip in the phone. But that's not the main thing that causes doubts. It is a philosophical fallacy at best. Consider this: The client-computing world has steadily been moving away from laptops towards much more mobile devices to the tune of very smart phones and tablets and ultra-light computers (think 11" Macbook Air type or even the dreaded and useless "netbook").... and now you're saying that by going BACK to a conventional laptop format, just because it can hook up to your phone, it's going to take down Apple and Microsoft? Get real... Listen, there is a market for the "webtop" concept, I don't deny that... but to label it as Apple / Microsoft killer is absurd...

earlehartshorn
earlehartshorn

THIS is the product I've been waiting for. My question is whether it will survive its birth or die stillborn. If Google can bring this off and make it competitive with pricing (say, under $500 for the whole package), usability (as easy as a Mac), and interoperability (with M$ Office apps) then we may have the Next Big Thing.

tech
tech

Let's be truly honest. What business REQUIRES Windows? It is the defacto choice because it is what everyone knows. It is what they used in high school, it is what they used in college. They get out in the real word and Microsoft is ALL they know! So, it is all they use. It's like saying man requires a knife, fork and spoon to eat. Well that is the perceived truth. But in many parts of the world they have survived just fine with chop sticks or other utensils. Business does not require Microsoft. I can't think of one single business that requires Microsoft (from a technological standpoint). At my full time job, I support Novell File / Print, Groupwise, and we get along just fine without Microsoft on the server side. Now we do have a MS SQL server for our accounting software, but to say it is a deal breaker to go without Microsoft is a bit of a stretch. We do have Microsoft on the desktop side (managed by Novell), but we could get by without Microsoft and get along just fine. There are plenty of options, I consult for MANY small companies, and often times they end up running Microsoft free. I can (and do) set up File and Print Servers, database servers and email, without Microsoft all the time. The companies increase there profits, sometimes dramatically. Why? Because they don't end up in the Microsoft suck hole trap, that consistently drains the profit margins of many small businesses. Now more than ever, because everyone wants access to their data on their smartphones and tablets (which are dominated by [gasp] non Microsoft products) the need for Microsoft is less every day. Now the reality is that going without Microsoft is not an obvious choice, for most because they have been indoctrinated into the Microsoft way of life. But if a company takes a serious look into a Microsoft free world it is certainly possible to live, and thrive Microsoft free! I run my personal business without Microsoft, and it is moderately successful.

JCitizen
JCitizen

the tried and true maxim, that volume with cheap prices means sure profits. Google is well aware of that American truism. Even Apple seems to have woke up to this - they would never have reached it with Motorola hardware cost factors.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Google has for this. But then you gotta wonder why smart phone OS couldn't just adopt the Chrome OS model? Maybe their is some hardware factors hidden behind this scene? Patents that 'might' be violated? Remember RIM?

ben
ben

in the same way your accountant will make you stop buying drinks when you run out of cash and have maxed out all your cards. Iridum ran out of money. They never got close to cash-flow positive, never made any money, burned up "loads of money". It went TU because they could not raise any more money, because there wasn't much chance of positive cash flow for a really long time. It's been over a decade, several changes in biz models, and still it's hardly shown explosive growth. It looks like a good investment of $11M now, but only after a really long time (in Venture years). You're right that Google was wise to pick up Moto-mobility for it's smarts. MM has been a pioneer and market leader for a long time. The IP portfolio is huge and hugely valuable. Accountants have a job to do, as do BODs of publicly traded companies. The accountants tell the story accurately and with traceability (if they're any good). Accountants don't make business decisions, directors do that. BODs' job is to ensure the company makes money and grows. They sometimes make bad decisions and companies fail. A LOT of companies have made outsourcing descisions, and it often doesn't work out well in the long run. MM made mistakes that let competitors take over a market they created. It isn't as simple as "accountants". I admit the decision to sell off MM had me scratching my head, but no mystery as to why Google would pick it up. It might turn out to be a good thing for MM, too soon to tell.

JCitizen
JCitizen

so Google can buy into the patent troll model; the Motorola archives will give them a lot of legal cover; especially since Apple started with Motorola chips.

tech
tech

...support a buggy OS if you support Microsoft. I will be the first to admit I am not a huge Microsoft fan boy, nor am I an Apple fan boy, or even a huge fan of Google. But if you want an OS that doesn't have a lot of bugs I don't see how Microsoft is the first choice (though they have gotten a little better). Want a secure OS with few bugs look at OpenBSD. As far as managing android and apple devices there are options out there that allow both to be controlled by the enterprise. No it is not a part of Microsoft, but the tools exist and they work. "One ring to rule them all", seems I have seen that somewhere and it wasn't a good idea.

tech
tech

... but I don't think it is as dire as you say either. I support more Android phones than iPhones and I support more iPads than Android Tablets. Android has a lot going for it. With the right device, I have seen little in the way of stability issues on Android. The fragmentation issue is real, but again, carefully vetting the device can eliminate that issue as well. I use my android tablet for work every day. Owning both an Android and Apple phones and tablets, I MUCH prefer the Android experience. Now I will admit that I don't need a lot of polish or shine from my device. What I do need is to be able to customize it to do what I need it to do. To that end, Android fits the bill much better than Apple, at least for me.

bukshanekom
bukshanekom

I don't want to start a whole "lets diss apple debate", but the "it just works" comment you used... is that not Apple's slogan? that is what you get for sticking with "tried and true"

bugsie857
bugsie857

the millions of people choosing Android over others because they just want something cheap that works realise this, er well substantiated fact??? and rush to seek allegiance with who? Apple? MS?

JCitizen
JCitizen

keyboards, "screens", and trackpad/mice, are always available at all organization locations. Not a problem at all for business. As far as personal use, I always have an unused monitor,keyboard, or mouse at several of my locations. I don't see the problem, and of course if people would quit throwing these things away, they'd also have access to said infrastructure. I see tons of this rubbish going to the dumps, in perfect working order. Maybe this would change that?

vinneyk
vinneyk

I second that, only replace MacBook 750HHD with XPS 17 250HHD :)

bugsie857
bugsie857

knowing Google that is exactly what they plan to do... in the same way they made the iphone clone available to the masses...

bugsie857
bugsie857

It's marketing old chap! Google seem to have just cottoned on to it. If you don't dock your ultra portable phone to a keyboard and larger screen, what do you dock? Your Ipad? Who wants to carry an ipad around with them when you can slip your phone into your back pocket. Until/unless the format of going to work and sitting at a desk changes, neither will the need for a keyboard and large screen. The OS can be tweaked and made more cost effective by Google. So the idea is a valid one. Also isn't the Macbook Air just a laptop?!

ben
ben

into my back pocket once. It was went fine until I sat down.... But I really wanted to upgrade anyway...

MrMarcelo
MrMarcelo

Mate, I agree with some (not all) of what you said. But you've completely missed my point. Of course there is a market for it (I even said so) and have no doubt that Google will make improvements on the concept. But to call it a "Apple/Microsoft killer" absolutely absurd and ridiculous. It's laughable. And that's my point...

bugsie857
bugsie857

But, the article didn't label it an "Apple/Microsoft killer".. it calls it a secret weapon, which if enough manufacturers collaborate on implementing standards (Android Alliance) then potentially if it takes off it could be.

Jordon
Jordon

I'd guess that a serious chunk of installed copies of Windows are on machines whose users are only using it for email and to surf the web. If that demographic stops buying PC's because their phone+webtop device gives them the same functionality, I can see a serious dent in M$ coffers.