I was lucky enough to be at panel discussion with the folks from Motorola and Google when they discussed this deal. Interestingly Microsoft was not there :). The valuation was high in everyone's opinion but this market is so huge and Google wants to be a leader here (and we all know they have the money) so ultimately it was probably a good decision for them. I am making a whole section on my blog http://patentfile.org/ dedicated to software and mobile patents.
@rick.merritt: you touch on a important topic for which there is not easy solution; alternately, it is what ever royalty you can get away with! In one of the products I was involved with, the royalty was 5cents for every unit sold (volume was couple of hundred millions yearly) for a product that sold at ~$7.50. Did I think it was a fair value? NO!
Patent valuation and royalty negotiation will always be case by case between parties involved, ONLY when challenged!
@ Dr Quine: Legislators and courts have certainly debated ways to determine a fair royalty for a single patent given the reality there could be hundreds or thousands of patents on any one device that may sell for a coule hundred dollars and have a profit margin of perhaps ten bucks. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has a workable solution--I haven't heard of one.
Perhaps an unintended consequence of the incredibly complex systems that fit inside a mobile phone is that the scores of involved patents make it likely that all phone infringe some patent if searched deeply enough. It seems that the manufacturers are recognizing this by cross licensing thousands of patents to avoid mutual destruction. When every patent covered a stand alone device this wasn't a problem. Maybe each patent should have a royalty price tag attached to it so that devices can be assembled from an inventory of parts and patents.
I have mixed feelings about all the patent lawsuits. One one hand, if another company is using technology that your company developed that needs to be addressed. On the other hand, the look and feel thing is a potential nightmare. Consider that ALL flour is packaged in paper bags that look alike (and like sugar as well). If that was a patented look for a major producer what would the real value be? If you look back far enough, don't the current generation of phones with touch screens "look like" the old LCD display handheld controllers? Where does it end? Just wondering if there could be some sanity application used.