What are Google’s true intentions in buying Motorola Mobility? This is the crux of the issue.
Supposedly, Motorola Mobility is going to “supercharge the Android ecosystem.” (Google’s CEO Larry Page noted in his blog that “….we are always looking for new ways to supercharge the Android ecosystem.”) Such statements beg the inevitable question: “Oh, really? How?”
But it’s possible. Given the growing mutations in Android implementation throughout the world, Google may indeed need to better understand the hardware involved. Motorola Mobility could help.
But I think the truth is elsewhere, as EE Times' Rick Merritt pointed out.
Analysts were quick to point out, this could be a pure IP play on the part of a Google that wants to amass more mobile-related IPs from Motorola.
My question, though, is whether and how effectively it (strengthening Google’s patent portfolio) will enable Google “to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies,” as Google’s CEO noted.
Certainly, Page isn’t just imagining the intensifying patent battle in the mobile world. The threat is real. Escalating lawsuit activity against Android-based handsets and tablets in recent months could shake the very foundation of Google’s promise for Android’s royalty-free appeal.
Google’s Android operating system has recently come under fire. Apple and Microsoft have taken Android device makers like HTC, Samsung and Motorola to court.
Of course, Motorola and Apple have squared off in courtrooms before. Most recently, Apple attempted to bar the sale of the Motorola Xoom tablet in Europe, as Apple had already done with Samsung’s Galazy Tab 10.1.
Last fall, it was Motorola who accused first Apple of violating 18 patents related to a range of technologies, including 3G, GPRS, 802.11 wireless and antenna design. While Motorola struggled in its efforts to license its patented technology to Apple, Apple countersued Motorola, for violation of patents related to multi-touch features in the iPhone.
But if Google’s planned acquisition is purely motivated by legal protection for Android, in my opinion, it’s sort of a downer… Yes, you could call this a “noble” act. But the strongest likelihood, as I see it, is a long, drawn-out litigation marathon among handset vendors, spending less time on any possible innovations in next-generation mobile handsets and tablets.
Don’t get me wrong. I know how critical Google’s move must be for the future of Android.
But there are no assurances that Google can fend off every lawsuit from Apple and Microsoft, just because Google has cornered all the seemingly essential mobile patents from Motorola Mobility.
More important, how much of Motorola’s patent portfolio is Google willing to place in the public domain in order to protect the future of Android? Wouldn’t Motorola Mobility be better off suing others (including other Android handset vendors) who may be infringing Motorola’s patents?
While explaining Google’s Motorola Mobility acquisition as Google’s ambition to become another Apple seems like a tired theme, it sure beats Google’s legal play. Imagine what Google can do. The search engine giant could build its own mobile empire (a la Apple), going head-to- head with just everyone on the market – including fellow Android-based handset vendors.
While that may not be “the right thing to do” if Google wants to continue to play the role of “technology brain” behind Android, it may be the most logical commercial gain from acquiring Motorola Mobility.
You say you lead the open-source community. And yet, you also have your own hardware division, whose mission is to differentiate its products from others. You can’t have it both ways.
But I do believe that quick notes sent out by Gary Mobley, senior analyst, semiconductors & related Technologies at Benchmark, a financial firm, were off-base. Mobley noted as a punch line in his research note: “With Google buying Motorola Mobility, investors may be concerned that the Android operating system will not be as open as it has been, and as a result, the potential pool of mobile application processor licensees for MIPS and ARM may shrink.”
I agree with Mobley that Android OS might never be so open again. But that shouldn’t have much impact on chip suppliers. Chip vendors thrive on developing solutions required by handset vendors. The broad acceptance that Android has received thus far from a growing number of handset vendors will dissuade most chip vendors from defecting or retreating from Android-based handsets. In contrast, the role of chip suppliers could become even more important, should Android-based handset vendors decide to go up against Motorola’s handsets.