The tech press has already dubbed the acquisition as a bombshell and a game changer, and it probably is. Google’s announcement blind sighted everyone, including yours truly. However, upon a closer inspection, it really seems to be an incredibly obvious move. So obvious that Stasys Bielinis from Unwired View had called it a couple of weeks back.
Motorola might have invented the mobile phone; however, as a mobile phone manufacturer they haven’t been doing so well. Samsung jumped onto the Android bandwagon well after Motorola, and yet has already managed to establish itself as the most popular Android handset manufacturer. Before Google jumped in, Motorola Mobility’s future was dubious at the very best. In fact, many believed that Motorola Mobility was spun off earlier in the year to simply attract buyers. Even more curiously, Motorola’s CEO Sanjay Jha bragged about his company’s patent portfolio just a couple of weeks back, in what might have been a bargaining move.
We own one of the strongest and most respected patent portfolios in the industry. We have over 17000 patents granted and 7000 patent applications pending, with particular strength in 2G and 3G essentials, non-essential patents important to the delivery of the competitive products in the marketplace, video, particularly compression/de-compression and security technologies, and, finally, a leading position in 4G LTE essentials. With new entrants in the mobile space, resulting from the convergence of mobility, media, computing and the internet, our patent portfolio is increasingly important. We regularly review the company’s strategies, opportunities and assets, including the IP, with the goal of creating and enhancing value.
In short, Motorola needed a buyer. More specifically it needed Google, since it had already committed to a 100% Android based offering, and Google also needed Motorola’s patents to save its skin as well as defend partners.
Until now, Google has been a software vendor that occasionally paired up with partners to dabble with hardware. However, if this deal goes through, Google will be in possession of one of the earliest and most dedicated adopters of Android. This deal will undoubtedly make HTC, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and others nervous about Google’s intentions. However, if Google manages to stay committed to its goal of remaining fair and unbiased, this acquisition will also help allay the Android parters fears regarding the long term viability of the Android platform. This deal also means that the stakes are even higher than before for Google. It now stands to not only generate revenue through extra advertisement eyeballs, but also through hardware sales. I am not saying that Google isn’t motivated right now, but a bit of extra incentive will probably not hurt Android.
The current situation, where Google is both a partner and a competitor of Android handset manufacturers, is not a lot different from the situation that arose a few years back when Nokia acquired Symbian. Google’s acquisition of Motorola doesn’t necessarily have to be a disaster, as many advocates of doom and gloom will like you to believe. Yes, ultimately Symbian did fail, but it was not because of Nokia’s conflicting role. It was because Symbian as a platform failed to keep up. It will be the same with Android. Unless Google shoots itself in the foot by getting overly bullish, which is unlikely given that Google intends on running Motorola as an independent division, Motoogle wouldn’t result in a rush of vendors jumping to alternative platforms like Windows Phone 7. That will only happen if Android fails to keep up with the demands of the market and someone else manages to come up with a much more compelling alternative. The Motorola Google combination seems like a natural fit, and Google will have to do something stupid to mess things up.