For the second Mobile World Congress in a row, Google's Android booth is the coolest in Barcelona. Not just because it's big and bright, and features free snacks, but because it epitomizes Google's geekiness.
There's the same slide to whiz down as Google had last year, and the same free smoothies. But this year, Google has also added a big robot that's crafting jewel-encrusted Galaxy Nexus faceplates while people watch. There are Android-shaped ice cream sandwiches, to honor the current "Ice Cream Sandwich" version of Android. And there are now two Android-tablet-powered claw-game machines. People have been waiting in line all day to try to win Google goodies, like stuffed Android dolls.
See: it's geeky! And that's why it's suddenly so exciting to this gadget geek that Google is acquiring Motorola.
Here's the best-case, dream scenario: That after Google and Motorola get over the awkwardness of their combination, they actually start producing some really cool, really nerdy, really futuristic gadgets.
Why? Because Google's founders and employees are among the smartest, geekiest engineers in the world. They can see the future before a lot of us. They are already dreaming up crazy new devices that aren't necessarily practical or necessary but could be really, really cool.
And now that they have a hardware company that they own, that they can feel comfortable rejecting products from until they're really good enough, they might actually be able to deliver some of these things to us geeks.
Last week, when the New York Times reported that Google is really working on computerized glasses, my instinct was to make fun of Google. Just as I might have when it was reported that Google is also working on some sort of computerized speaker system. Because it's easy to say, "oh, it's just those crazy Google guys at it again! Wasting time when they should be working!"
But after thinking about it for a few minutes, I changed my mind. Why shouldn't glasses run software and have cameras and cell service in the future? And why shouldn't Google be building that sort of stuff?
Heck, Google's probably one of the only companies that's smart enough to actually do something like that the right way. And it's definitely one of the only companies that's rich enough to fund wacky experiments like these as side projects. Maybe they'll actually be cool, useful, or world-changing. And if not, then it's on to the next ones.
Here in Barcelona, Motorola's booth is a short walk around the corner from Google's. It's in a big room and it's nice enough. There's a display of Android tablets, some props that you can use to test a Motorola phone's durability against sand and water, and there is an odd display of people exercising on stage to promote the "MOTOACTV" fitness products.
It's fine. But it's nothing special. Sort of like the devices Motorola has been shipping for the last few years. Better than the dark ages after the RAZR burned out, but not the sort of devices you'd pick up and say, "whoa, this is the future."
And that's where Google plus Motorola has potential to do truly unique things. Maybe not as Motorola's main focus; it seems that there will still be a meat-and-potatoes business, where it makes handsets and tablets for carriers, the way it does now. But if part of Motorola's role could be to serve as Google's gadget lab, making cool, geeky products that actually ship, that could be fun for us geeks.
Google has made a lot of noise that it's going to keep Motorola separate, run it at an arm's length, etc., so as to avoid angering its hundreds of Android partners and probably a few governments. Google has "literally built a firewall" between its Android team and Motorola, Android boss Andy Rubin told reporters here in Barcelona yesterday.
But we can dream!