Motorola’s patent portfolio may have been the driving force behind the mega “Googorola” marriage, but the $12.5 billion deal won’t just help protect Google’s Android from legal threats. It could also make the platform more appealing to advertisers.
Since Google launched its open-source mobile operating system in November 2007, the company says more than 150 million Android devices have been activated around the world. By the end of this year, eMarketer says 28 percent of U.S. smartphone users will own an Android, up from 24 percent in 2010 and 6 percent in 2009.
Not too shabby, especially considering eMarketer expects Apple’s share to grow just 2 percent, from 28 percent in 2010 to 30 percent this year.
Though Android’s market share is growing quickly, advertiser interest doesn’t appear to be keeping pace. A poll released this month from media software firm Strata found that while 87 percent of U.S. ad agencies considered the iPhone to be an interesting advertising venue, just two-thirds of the agencies felt similarly about Android devices.
But advertisers say they take the planned acquisition as a sign that positive changes lie ahead.
“Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility should be a catalyst for innovation in the mobile development space by streamlining the process by which we build Android apps,” said Bryan Wiener, CEO of interactive agency 360i. “Consolidation will make it easier for marketers to create powerful mobile experiences at scale.”
Noah Elkin, a principal analyst for eMarketer, said that while Apple doesn’t match Android in volume, it far exceeds Google’s platform in consistency—a highly valued quality for advertisers.
“One of the consistent criticisms of Android is that it is fragmented,” he said.
The open nature of the Android platform may allow it to proliferate across dozens of manufacturers and more than 200 carriers, but it also means different user interfaces and different release schedules for software updates. For brand advertisers, that means customers won’t just experience their cool new apps differently, but they might not be able to experience them at all.
“Google is looking at how do we take the next step in this competitive landscape and how do we make Android increasingly appealing to advertisers,” Elkin said. “That has to be part of the equation for Google because that’s really at the heart of what they do as a company.”
In a call with analysts Monday morning, Google said that the company doesn’t plan to change how it runs Android and will operate Motorola as a separate company.
But some say that software giant Google’s integration with a hardware company—even if it’s with one that claimed less than 3 percent of the global smartphone market in the second quarter (according to research firm Gartner)—could potentially help improve Android users’ experiences overall.
“Having and working with a subsidiary that is hardware-centric could help them understand the problems and create a better understanding of what’s needed from an OEM perspective,” said Will Stofega, program director of mobile device technology and trends for research firm IDC.
And that possibility—even if it’s far off—is putting a twinkle in advertisers’ eyes.
“[We’re] excited to see what opportunities this acquisition unlocks for marketers in regards to advertising placement and reach, innovative creative and fresh user insights,” said Brett Leary, vice president of mobile marketing for Digitas.
Marketers could have new ways of claiming real estate on Android devices as preinstalled apps or unique partnerships, and new creative and development opportunities might surface given Google’s ability to integrate software and hardware at scale, he said. Leary added that another advertising upshot of the new alliance is Google’s opportunity to leverage usage insights to improve mobile ad targeting and dynamic ad creation.
Despite the enthusiasm, some analysts are quick to point out that Motorola is just one of many Android makers, and even if Google can streamline user experiences on Motorola devices, the many more other carriers add another layer of gatekeepers to the mix.
“I don’t see that this will have much impact at all over the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem,” said Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research. Advertisers want reach, he said, and if they’re going to invest in Android, they don’t want to be limited to Motorola.
Still, taking the long view, one digital media executive said the closer connection between the operating system and the hardware should ultimately make for more seamless and speedy experiences.
“We’re going to have a richer platform on which to build stuff, which in turn builds more usage. We, being advertisers, we follow the eyeballs,” he said.