Google-Motorola: It’s All About Defense [Editorial]

You have probably heard by now that Google is acquiring Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. On the face of it, the acquisition seems like an incredibly aggressive move by Google. However, in reality, this acquisition is all about defense.

Motorola-Google-AcquisitionForgive me for being clichéd, but as they say, offense is the best form of defense, and that’s exactly what this deal is all about. As we have already discussed, one of the key assets of Motorola Mobility is its patent trove. Android and its partners have come under fire in the recent months due to alleged patent infringements. In fact, Microsoft has found a smart way to earn possibly even more than Google is doing from Android by licensing its patents to manufacturers like HTC. Unfortunately, there’s not much Google can do at the moment because of its weak patent portfolio. It can’t hit back at the likes of Microsoft or Oracle. That’s the reason why Google was desperate to grab the Nortel and Novel patents. That’s the reason behind Google’s public outburst at the current patent scenario. However, Motorola with its twenty five thousand patents (17,000 granted, 7,000 pending) will change all of this. If you consider that Nortel’s patents were sold for as much as four billion dollars, the $12.5 billion price for Motorola doesn’t seem very steep. Motorola will undoubtedly offer Google other benefits, including the ability to build the Android device that it really wants to, and shape the ecosystem with firmer hands. However, the real reason for buying Motorola is undoubtedly to protect Android and its ecosystem from being devoured by patent infringement lawsuits from competitors. Larry Page doesn’t try to hide this in his announcement. Although he does throw in the usual generic remarks that the acquisition will help accelerate innovationand supercharge the entire Android ecosystem, he goes on to dedicate an entire paragraph on the significance of Motorola’s patent portfolio.

We recently explained how companies including Microsoft and Apple are banding together in anti-competitive patent attacks on Android. The U.S. Department of Justice had to intervene in the results of one recent patent auction to protect competition and innovation in the open source software communityand it is currently looking into the results of the Nortel auction. Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.

If you still have doubts regarding the real reason behind the acquisition, have a look at the official reactions from other Android handset manufacturers.

We welcome the news of todays acquisition, which demonstrates that Google is deeply committed to defending Android, its partners, and the entire ecosystem.
Peter Chou, CEO, HTC Corp.

I welcome Googles commitment to defending Android and its partners.
Bert Nordberg, President & CEO, Sony Ericsson

We welcome Googles commitment to defending Android and its partners.
Jong-Seok Park, Ph.D, President & CEO, LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company

The common phrase in the statements released by HTC, Sony Ericsson, and LG is defending Android and its partners.

BlackBerry Offers to Help in Tracking Down London Rioters, Official Blog Gets Hacked in Retaliation

You are probably aware of the shameful display of hooliganism that has ravaged several British cities including London, just a year before it is due to host the Olympics. According to reports, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) was the primary tool used to spread and organize the riots.

The riots started on August 6, in response to the Police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham. A protest march by a couple of hundred people turned violent, and resorted to rioting, vandalism, and looting. Over the next few days, the disturbance spread to several other cities including Birmingham, Liverpool, and Nottingham. As mentioned earlier, the vandals, who were mostly youths, resorted to using BBM as the primary means of communication. UrbanMashup has dug up evidence that illustrates how BBM was used to spread information about areas that were being attacked and were vulnerable.

Reacting to the widespread allegations of misuse of BBM during the riots, the official BlackBerry UK Twitter account promised to co-operate with the police during the investigation. It issued the following brief statement on the aforementioned micro-blogging platform:

We feel for those impacted by the riots in London. We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can.less than a minute ago via CoTweet Favorite Retweet Reply

Although RIM has declined to reveal the extent of its co-operation with the police, according to The Inquirer, The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act could be used to force Research in Motion (RIM) – the Canadian manufacturer of BlackBerry, to hand over data from its encrypted BBM network.

This announcement obviously didn’t sit well with some people. A group called Team Poison defaced the official BlackBerry blog in retaliation. Team Poison has urged RIM to not cooperate with the UK police, as it believes that handing over BBM data will lead to innocent bystanders, who were at the wrong place at the wrong time, getting implicated. It also threatened to release RIM’s UK employee database to the angry rioters, if the Canadian company didn’t back down. The offending blog post has already been removed by RIM, but a screenshot provided by an HN user is embedded below.


HTC Launches New Developer Portal with Bootloader Unlocking, OpenSense SDK, and Kernel Source Code

HTC has made good on its promise and has launched its new developer portal. Although the developer portal is intended to cater to both Android and Windows Phone 7 devices from HTC, right now it is predominantly for Android users and developers.

HTCdev is designed to give you the inspiration to explore the possibilities within HTC devices, the resources you need to develop your ideas and applications, and the opportunity to connect with other developers and with HTC.


HTC is opening up aspects of its popular Sense UI to enable tighter third party application integration. Currently three sets of APIs are available: Common Controls API, Stereoscopic 3D (S3D) API, and Tablet Pen API. The first one encompasses UI widgets and components that will provide developers with the ability to deliver the Sense UI look and feel to their applications. The other two are for leveraging 3D display and Scribe pen functionalities. HTCDev also provides access to the kernel source code for pretty much all the current generation HTC Android smartphones.

Disappointingly, the bootloader unlocking tool, which is probably the most highly anticipated aspect of the new developer portal, is still not ready. HTC Sensation will be the first handset to receive the unlocker, followed by the HTC Sensation 4G on T-Mobile USA and the HTC EVO 3D on Sprint. The web based bootloader unlocking tool is expected to go live within the next couple of weeks. All future HTC handsets will continue to ship with locked bootloaders; however, they will be unlockable through the HTCDev portal.

Android Security Apps Benchmarked: Bit Defender Has the Highest Detection Rate, Symantec the Lowest

The growing sophistication and popularity of smartphone operating systems has handed malware developers new platforms for wreaking havoc. Apple by and large avoids malware scares by maintaining a tight grip over the iOS App Store. However, Android’s open nature makes it a much easier target. Although malware outbreaks on Android aren’t nearly as big of a problem as they are on Windows, over the past year, a few of them have succeeded in creating trouble. PCSL (PC Security Labs) from China has published a comparative study of some of the security solutions for Android currently available in the market.

PCSL used a sample database consisting of 90 malware to test the detection capabilities of Android antimalware/antivirus applications. The detailed report is yet to be published, but the chart below illustrates the overall results.


Bit Defender was the top performer followed by a Chinese solution called Qihoo 360. Somewhat surprisingly, reputed vendors such as Trend Micro, AVG, and Symantec performed miserably. One possible explanation might be that PCSL, which itself is based in China, used a sample set that contained a sizable proportion of malware of Chinese origin. I guess we will have to wait for the release of the full report to know more. Many familiar names including Lookout and ESET were also excluded from this shootout; however, PCSL has promised to include them in the next edition.

Social Video Discovery and Identification App IntoNow Debuts on Android


Back in January this year, an almost magical app for iOS called IntoNow made its first appearance. In less than three months, even before IntoNow had gotten around to building an user base, Yahoo swooped in and acquired it for something in the range of twenty to thirty million dollars. Even more interestingly, multiple players including Shazam and Twitter were also in talks.

IntoNow’s rapid rise isn’t really a surprise given that it’s a one of a kind app that works amazingly well. IntoNow is in many ways Shazam or Soundhound for television. It listens to the content you are watching and identifies not only the show you are watching, but also the episode. There are plenty of other social-discovery tools built around television – GetGlue and Miso are probably the most familiar ones. However, IntoNow one-ups them through its intuitiveness. Not only that, IntoNow also puts a lot more focus on making the television watching experience social. That difference between GetGlue and IntoNow’s priorities become obvious by just taking a look at the home screens of the respective apps.

IntoNow Home Screen

IntoNow for Android

The good news is the IntoNow is no longer restricted to the iPhone. A short while back, IntoNow made its debut on the Android platform. The Android app is sleek, intuitive, and a joy to use. In short, it is head and shoulders above VideoSurf, GetGlue, Miso and other competitors. The bad news is that due to some inexplicable reason, IntoNow is region limited. If you are outside the US, you can still install and use IntoNow, but you will have to grab the APK from unofficial sources.

Gmail for Android Update Fixes Annoyances, Makes it More Powerful

Google has just updated its Gmail app for Android. To be honest, Gmail for Android is already pretty damn brilliant. It offers the perfect blend of power and simplicity. The latest release enhances it further by getting rid of a couple of minor annoyances, and adding some handy power-user features.

Gmail for Android now supports label specific ringtones. If you receive dozens of mails every minute, then this feature can be a godsend. By mashing up filters, labels, and ringtones, Google has now given power users the ability to configure Gmail such that they only get notified when an urgent mail arrives. Another handy new feature in Gmail 2.3.5 is the ability to sync only priority mail. This will appeal to users who want to conserve battery and bandwidth.


As mentioned earlier, this update also takes care of a couple of major annoyances present in the existing version of Gmail for Android. Gmail can now remember your Show Pictures’ preferences for various senders. Additionally, as reported by Android Police, it is finally possible to download attachments without using third-party tools.

You can download Gmail for Android directly from your device or through the web Market.

Behind the Scenes Android Market Change Irks Developers

Android-Market Google has been slowly rolling out a significant update to the Android Market, which features better app discovery, and introduces new eBook and movie stores. Apart from major updates, Google also pushes out behind-the-scenes tweaks from time to time. One such change, which was made on July 1, has several developers up in arms.

Google seems to have tweaked the algorithm powering the search functionality on the Android Market. As a result of this change, many highly rated popular apps, which had previously occupied the top positions in the search results page, have now been superseded by irrelevant low-quality poorly rated apps. Some app developers are complaining that even typing the exact name of the application isn’t returning the expected result. Interestingly enough, the web version of the Market doesn’t seem to be affected by this bug. It’s only the search functionality on the Market app for devices that is affected.

Naturally, developers, some of whom have experienced up to 80% dip in revenues, are furious. As spotted by The Register, many of these developers have taken to the official Android forums to voice their frustration and annoyance. Google is aware of the problem, and has promised to investigate.

Facebook for Android Gets Improved Pages Support

Facebook for Android has been updated for a second time in less than a month. Once again, it’s a fairly minor update. However, it does feature a few welcome changes.

The previous update saw rudimentary support for Pages being added. However, as I mentioned, it was pretty rudimentary. With the latest update, it is finally possible to view the full list of Pages that you Like, as well the ones that you administer. Now, you can tag Pages in your updates, and even posting as a Page, if you are the admin. Search for Pages is also included. However, surprisingly enough, Pages hasn’t received its own tab. Instead, it has been tucked onto the Friends section. Additionally, there are several bug fixes and optimizations. However, as far as noticeable new features are concerned, there isn’t anything else.


As we mentioned earlier, Facebook for Android is a pretty decent application, but it still lags behind its iPhone counterpart. Facebook for Android currently has a rating of 3.7/5, with a significant number of 1-star ratings. Even the latest version seems to be causing “Force Close” and battery drain issues for many users. For a long time, Facebook has been giving Android the step-motherly treatment. However, with the initial success of Google+, Facebook might have to work harder. Once Google+ is ready for the general public, Google will surely begin to leverage Android’s 550,000+ activations per day to increase Plus’ market penetration.

Google Blocks Movie Rentals on Rooted Android Handsets, Protection Gets Bypassed Almost Instantly

Earlier today, Google completely revamped the Android Market, and added movie rentals and an eBook store. Unfortunately, the movie and book stores are currently limited to the United States. However, that’s not the only limitation that Google has put in place. Google is also blocking movie rentals from working on all rooted devices.


As you might expect, this has quite a few developers and users up in arms. One of the biggest selling points of Android is its openness. Of course, Google has shown time and again that it is willing to sacrifice the openness of Android to suit its requirements. However, as far as I can recall, Google has never gone so far as to actively discourage users from rooting their devices.

François Simond, the creator of the extremely popular Voodoo Control Plus application for Samsung devices, voiced his frustration in the official Android forums.

I’m the author of the application on market Voodoo Control Plus, that improve sound and image quality on devices like Google Nexus S and many other phones and tablets.
This application, like many useful ones requires root in order to provide its additional features.
I’m just learning that Google finally decided to blacklist rooted device for their mainstream Google movie on Android market, preventing users to watch the videos they buy or rent.
As many users and developers, I find this restriction unacceptable, restricting users freedom despite Android is supposed to be an open platform.
What is really absurd in this blacklisting is that it’s by design ineffective, for several reasons:
– No reliable “root” or “Superuser” detection can ever be completed
– Because of the ease to modify device Linux kernels, any kind of protection system trying to prevent file copying is ineffective.
If you don’t trust me, I’m sure a few hackers like me will take upon the challenge and prove this “protection” is defective by design in just a few hours.
If this is the solution to the Movie companies security requirement, Google using this technique lie to their business partners.
Google, this move is damageable for everyone.
You made a mistake, that’s okay. Now please fix it.

As correctly predicted by Simond, within hours of the release of the new Android Market, hackers managed to work around Google’s blockade. TeamAndIRC has published a video demonstrating Google movie rentals running on a modified version of Cyanogen 7. Although a proper patch or a crack is yet to be released, from what I understand, TeamAndIRC already has a workable solution.

The technique being used by Google to detect rooted devices is extremely weak, and it’s not surprising that hackers managed to bypass it almost instantly. However, even if they employ a more complicated logic, it will still be bypassed. Blocking rooted handsets cannot be a proper substitute for a proper DRM (Digital Rights Management) scheme. What Google is doing right now is pointless and stupid. It is irritating Android users, highlighting Google’s irreverence towards the openness’ mantra that it loves to chant whenever convenient, and is utterly useless in preventing actual misuse.

(Hat tip: Kalpik)

Opera Mobile and Opera Mini Receives Google Suggest and Auto-complete

As usual, Opera Software has been keeping itself busy. Just a couple of days after releasing Swordfish (Opera 11.50), it has pumped out another update. Opera Mini 6.1 and Opera Mobile 11.1 for a wide range of platforms have been released.

Opera-Mobile-Mini-Auto-CompleteAs suggested by the version number, this is a fairly minor update. There are two main improvements. The first one is support for auto-suggest for search engines. Currently, this feature is only available for Google and Yandex. The second enhancement is the addition of auto-complete for forms. Both of these are features that users had been requesting for quite some time. We have a saying at Opera: Listen to our users,said Dag Olav Norem, VP Product Management, Opera Software. As a company, we are constantly listening to our users on what they want in their browser. So, to our most vocal consumers, thank you and keep the feedback coming!

Opera Mini is mainly aimed at feature phones that don’t have enough power to run a full-fledged browser. The task of rendering websites is offloaded to Opera’s remote servers. They process the webpages and send a static representation back to the browser. It also compresses the webpages, which results in faster browsing on slower networks, and reduces bandwidth consumption. Although Opera Mini was initially intended for feature phones, it is now available for Android and iOS also. Smartphone owners who are on a slow network or a metered connection can use Opera Mini for a faster and cheaper browsing experience. Opera Mobile is the full-fledged mobile browsing solution that uses the same Presto rendering engine as the desktop browser. This means that Opera Mobile supports advanced HTML5 and CSS3 features, and is capable of running client-side scripts.

You can download the latest version of Opera Mini and Opera Mobile from