From the original Droid to the brand-new Atrix, Motorola’s been all about Android over the last year and a half. But if Thomas Claburn’s anonymous source is correct, that may eventually change.
In a report for InformationWeek, Claburn writes that Motorola is building its own web-based operating system as a way to curb its reliance on Google’s Android. Motorola has reportedly hired mobile and web engineers away from Apple and Adobe, but its not clear whether this rumored OS is anywhere near completion.
Except, Motorola already has a web-based OS that’s complete and on the market right now. I’m talking about Webtop, the software that runs on the Motorola Atrix’s laptop dock and set-top dock. If it didn’t have a little window for running the phone’s Android apps, there’d be nothing Google about it.
Okay, so Motorola refers to Webtop as an “application” instead of an OS, but that’s not really the case. Just one look at the software reveals all the trimmings of an operating system, from the tray full of applications — in this case, web apps — on the bottom of the screen to the full version of Firefox that is Webtop’s main attraction. If Google’s bare-bones Chrome OS is an operating system, so is Webtop.
I’m not bringing this up to poke holes in Claburn’s story. Quite the opposite: I think Webtop is a pretty good indicator of where Motorola is headed. The company has already said that Webtop and its modular docks are coming to more devices. If Webtop becomes more prominent in Motorola devices over time, I could see the company adapting the OS for smartphones or tablets.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Web apps aren’t ready to handle all the functions that native smartphone apps currently provide. Even Google, champion of web services, has released native iPhone apps for Google Latitude and Google Voice. The Webtop platform allows Motorola to test the waters, but if the company really is working a fully web-based smartphone platform, I doubt that it’ll be ready anytime soon.