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.

Motorola Photon 4G Bootloader Unlocked!

In the last year or so, all the Android phones shipped by Motorola came with an encrypted boot loader. Motorola has been heavily criticized for shipping their phones with locked down bootloader. The company promised that they will ship phones with unlockable boot loaders sometime later this year. Sadly, the company has not made any visible progress on this front.

For the Photon 4G owners though, the good news is that the boot loader on their handset can now be unlocked. The awesomely talented developers over at XDA forums have managed to unlock the encrypted boot loader of the Photon 4G.  Interested Photon 4G owners, can head over to this thread over at XDA forums for more information on how to unlock the boot loader.

Photon 4G owners should keep in mind that if they unlock the boot loader of their handset, they will void the warranty of the handset. They should also make a backup of their data on the phone, since the phone will be wiped clean of all data during the unlocking process.

Since the Photon 4G shares similar internals to Verizon’s Droid 3 and the upcoming Droid Bionic, it may help developers to unlock the boot loader of those handsets as well.

 

Google’s Ace in the Hole: Motorola

Google has been attacked by many of its opponents lately. Apple and Microsoft have been ganging up against its Android device partners slapping them with patent infringement lawsuits, while Google was unable to do anything to defend them. Oracle and its infamous army of lawyers went up against Google itself, over the use of Java in Android. While Google seems likely to lose the lawsuit against Oracle, it has been trying to fight back against Apple and Microsoft. It tried to win the Nortel patent portfolio, but lost the auction against a consortium of Apple, Microsoft and others.

It was reportedly trying to buy InterDigital, which also has a large trove of patents related to wireless technology. Apple was also interested in InterDigital, if only to keep its patents away from Google. There were a few potential acquisition targets which made a lot of sense for Google. One of them was Motorola. Today, Google announced that it had bought Motorola for $12.5 billion, a 63% premium over its last closing price.

Here’s what the heads at Google and Motorola had to say:

Larry Page, CEO of Google, said, Motorola Mobility’s total commitment to Android has created a natural fit for our two companies. Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers. I look forward to welcoming Motorolans to our family of Googlers.

Sanjay Jha, CEO of Motorola Mobility, said, This transaction offers significant value for Motorola Mobility’s stockholders and provides compelling new opportunities for our employees, customers, and partners around the world. We have shared a productive partnership with Google to advance the Android platform, and now through this combination we will be able to do even more to innovate and deliver outstanding mobility solutions across our mobile devices and home businesses.

Andy Rubin, Senior Vice President of Mobile at Google, said, We expect that this combination will enable us to break new ground for the Android ecosystem. However, our vision for Android is unchanged and Google remains firmly committed to Android as an open platform and a vibrant open source community. We will continue to work with all of our valued Android partners to develop and distribute innovative Android-powered devices.

While the price is a bit high, Google didn’t have many other options. Additionally, the deal does make a lot of sense. Here’s why:

Patents, Patents & Patents!

If there is one thing that has been in the news in the last couple of months, it’s patent lawsuits. Almost everyone, from small patent trolls to large corporations, has been suing everyone else for patent infringement. Of the giants involved, Google was probably the most vulnerable one, with only a small number of patents in its portfolio.

With the Motorola acquisition, it has added more than 17,000 granted patents and 7,500 patent applications to its portfolio. Motorola is one of the oldest mobile companies and has a wide range of patents that can be used by Google for either defense or offence. I doubt that Apple or Microsoft would be able to bully Google or its friends now.

Straight from the horse’s mouth:

“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.”

Hardware – Smartphones and Tablets

While the primary reason may have been patents, Google may have realized that Android probably wasn’t going to make it much money. With the Motorola acquisition, they can try to do it the Apple way. Tightly integrated software and hardware – a complete ecosystem of devices by Google. While it might piss off Samsung or HTC, it does make Google less dependent on its partners. Google will be able to offer a much better experience to users via optimized software running on its own hardware. It will also be able to offer quicker updates, at least on its own devices.

Additionally, Google’s purchase may force Microsoft to buy a mobile hardware company too, probably Nokia or RIM. Microsoft may realize that it needs a mobile hardware company as well, to compete with Google and Apple.

TV

Motorola has a huge set top box business. Apple’s next big move may be in the TV business. Google has tried, but has largely failed to make a dent in the TV business. With Motorola, Google may gain a competitive advantage against Apple. After smartphones and tablets, the television industry is the next in line, ripe for some disruptive innovation. This buy could be Google’s perfect weapon against Apple and the incumbents in the TV business.

How It Could Backfire!

If Google has made the acquisition for patents alone, then I don’t see any major problems. HTC, Sony Ericsson and LG have already announced that they approve of the deal. But if the deal is about Google planning to bundle its own hardware with Android, Samsung, HTC, LG and others should be worried.

Google will obviously launch new Android versions on its own devices, unlike those of Samsung, HTC or other vendors. With Samsung and HTC being the largest Android phone manufacturers, Google is playing with fire. While Google’s move may be right, it can alienate and drive Samsung, HTC and LG right into the arms of Microsoft (Windows Phone 7).

However, Google has stated that Motorola will be run as a separate business, so I suppose Google’s primary focus is the patents, for now.

Wall Street seems to have taken news of the acquisition quite positively. There hasn’t been a significant drop in Google’s stock price. I suspect it might even move up.

Here are the official announcements:

Google to Acquire Motorola Mobility

Supercharging Android: Google to Acquire Motorola Mobility

Google Buys Motorola Mobility For $12.5 Billion!

This news is probably going to shock a lot of people out here. The search engine giant – Google – has acquired Motorola’s smartphone business for $12.5 billion.

At the moment, there is not much information available about this deal, and why Google decided to purchase Motorola mobility, out of the blue. However, after this deal, we can expect Google to start manufacturing its own handsets, unlike now.

Motorola was among the first smartphone manufacturers to bet big on Google’s open-source mobile OS. The Motorola Droid played a major role in making Android popular in the U.S. Motorola was also the first company to launch an Android 3.0 Honeycomb based tablet. The relation between both the companies have been very strong right from the early days of Android.

The official blog-post from Google regarding this deal states that they will continue to run Motorola as a  separate  business unit. Readers can find the whole blog post here.

One reason behind this buy-out can be the huge amount of patent that Motorola owns, which might help the big G in the patent war. The patent portfolio of Google is definitely going to get a huge boost thanks to this deal!  This buy-out can also mean that from now onwards, all the Nexus branded phone from Google will be made by Motorola.

Hopefully, this also means that we will see some much better handsets coming out from Motorola’s stable after this deal. Ideally, Motorola will start making reference hardware for future versions of Android as well.

 

Motorola Titanium Unveiled; Runs On Android 2.1 Eclair!

Motorola and Nextel Mexico have unveiled a new Android based smartphone – the Motorola Titanium. The Titanium is similar to the Verizon’s Droid Pro.

The Titanium sports a 3.1-inch screen with HVGA (320×480) resolution. The phone has a candy-bar form-factor, with a full QWERTY keyboard, up front. Other key features of the Titanium include a GPS with A-GPS, Wi-Fi b/g/n, FM Radio with RDS and a microSD card slot with an 8GB card pre-loaded.

At Motorola, we are proud to introduce Motorola TITANIUM, it is the first device in its class to integrate various communication types e-mail and the Internet, radio and telephony. That is precisely how our joint offer becomes smarter,said Vince García, iDEN director, Motorola Mexico.

The back of the handset will pack a 5MP camera with autofocus, and LED flash. The Titanium runs on the out-dated Android 2.1 (Eclair), with Moto’s BLUR UI on top of it. It also supports Nextel’s email service and radio  functionality. The handset is powered by a  monstrous  1820mAh battery.

Sadly, Motorola and Nextel did not mention anything about the release date or pricing of the Titanium. However, the handset should be available to the end-user by September.

 

 

Motorola Fire is a Low-End Android Messenger; Headed To Germany This September

Motorola has released a new mid-range budget oriented Android smartphone, the Fire. This fiery handset from Motorola sports a 2.8-inch screen with QVGA (240×320) resolution. The handset has a candy-bar form factor with a four-row QWERTY keyboard up front as well.

Other key features of the Fire include Wi-Fi b/g/n, A-GPS, microSD card slot, a LED for notifications, FM radio with RDS and a 3.5mm audio jack. The usual array of sensors like Accelermeter, Ambient light sensor and proximity sensor etc. are also on-board. At the back of the handset is a 3MP fixed-focus camera.

The Fire also comes with a new version of Moto’s Switch UI, which seamlessly allows switching between friends-centric and work-centric mode. Even though the Fire is a budget-oriented handset, it runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

The handset is powered by a 1420mAh battery, which is capable of providing a standby time of 30 days or eight hours of talk-time.

The Motorola Fire will hit the retail stores in Germany sometime in September. The handset will cost 189 euro, inclusive of taxes and excluding any contract.

 

Apple Suing Motorola Over Design of Xoom Tablet

Apple vs MotorolaApple recently has been involved in a number of patent lawsuits with competitors using the Android OS. A new discovery by FOSS Patents, reveals that Apple has also sued Motorola in Europe, claiming that the Motorola Xoom tablet infringes the design of Apple’s products. This was revealed in a court document filed in Germany and associated with the preliminary injuction given against Samsung yesterday banning the sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Prior to or simultaneously with the motion for a preliminary injunction against Samsung, Apple also filed a complaint with the same court over the design of the Motorola Xoom tablet. Here’s a passage from the Samsung complaint that mentions two other lawsuits Apple instigated against iPad competitors — Motorola and a local German company named JAY-tech…

The filing does not say whether or not  Apple has pushed for a preliminary injunction against the sale of the Xoom in the European Union as it did for the Galaxy Tab 10.1. However, Apple is considering a  permanent injunction against Motorola’s Xoom.

In addition, the filing also notes that a preliminary injunction against  JAY-tech  was granted and further upheld “in its entirety” following a hearing.  JAY-tech last year began offering a budget 7-inch Android-based tablet, and the company is no longer selling the product.

Last year, Motorola filed a suit against Apple  claiming infringement of a series of 18 Motorola patents with a broad array of Mac and iOS products. Since then, the two companies have been quiet between each other but today’s  revelation suggests that  Apple has continued to go after Motorola.

Motorola XOOM Android 3.1 Honeycomb Update Rolling Out in Europe

Motorola has finally deemed the XOOM owners in Europe worthy enough for a software update. While XOOM owners in the U.S. started receiving the Android 3.2 Honeycomb update this weekend, European owners will be getting the Android 3.1 HC update now.

motorola_xoom

The Android 3.1 Honeycomb update mainly aims at improving the core stability of the apps, along with improvements in 2D rendering. The update also brings scrollable widgets, and removes the 5 app limit from the multi-task switcher.

Motorola is rolling out the update in stages, so it will take quite some time before some XOOM owners get the update. I am talking about weeks and not days here.

I guess XOOM owners should not even think about the Android 3.2 Honeycomb update before in the next couple of months. Impatient XOOM owners in Europe can always head over to XDA forums, and download and install the Android 3.2 Honeycomb ROM.

The XOOM was the first Android tablet to launch with Honeycomb on-board. However, it is among the slowest tablets out there to get updated to the latest version of Honeycomb. The most popular Android tablet, Asus EeePad Transformer, got its Android 3.2 Honeycomb update a couple of weeks ago!

Motorola XOOM 3G Android 3.2 Honeycomb Update Rolling Out Now

Google released Android 3.2 Honeycomb without much fanfare. The Asus EeePad Transformer, which is the most popular Android Honeycomb based tablet out there, got the update last week. Now, Motorola and Verizon have started rolling out the Android 3.2 update for the first ever Honeycomb tablet, the XOOM 3G.

Motorola_XOOM

The Android 3.2 update brings some new features, and some much needed performance and stability improvements for the core apps. First and foremost, HC 3.2 brings a screen scaling compatibility mode, which is similar to the one found in iPad. On a single tap, users can double the pixel of the incompatible app, making it usable to a certain extent. Something is better than nothing, after all!

Post this update, XOOM owners can also finally make use of the SD card slot present in the tablet. There are also improvements in Google Movie rentals, streaming support and Exchange ActiveSync.

Motorola has already started rolling out the update, and aims to complete the roll-out within the next 2 weeks. Impatient XOOM owners can find the required files to update their tablet to Android 3.2 Honeycomb, over at XDA forums.

[Rant] Motorola Created Hype For a Disappointing Product – The Droid Bionic

The Motorola Droid Bionic was announced 7 months ago, at the CES 2011. At that time, the Droid Bionic was going to be the first 4G LTE phone with a dual-core processor to hit Verizon’s network. However, for some unknown reason Moto shelved the original Bionic, and announced that it will release a new version of Bionic with an improved form-factor.

Over the last few weeks, many rumors about the Droid Bionic leaked on the Internet. Some rumors stated that the handset will have a 4.5-inch screen, while other suggest that the phone will have a 1.5GHz OMAP processor. Now, thanks to Motorola’s Developer website and Droid-Life, the specs of Droid Bionic have leaked online.

Motorola_Droid_Bionc

The internals of Droid Bionic are similar to the recently launched Droid 3, except that it has more RAM. The Bionic will be powered by a dual-core 1GHz OMAP 4430 processor, and pack 1GB of RAM. The most disappointing part is that the Bionic will have the same pixelated screen as found on the Droid X2 and the Droid 3.

Here are the full specs of the Bionic :

  • 1GHz OMAP dual-core 4430 processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 4.3-inch qHD (960×640) screen PenTile display
  • 8MP camera with full-HD recording capability
  • mini-HDMI port
  • Front-facing camera
  • 4G LTE
  • Webtop capabilities similar to the Atrix 4G

Motorola created a lot of hype around the Droid Bionic, and if this what the final Droid Bionic packs, then I am disappointed. If Verizon’s version of Samsung Galaxy S II features 4G LTE, then I doubt anyone will buy the Droid Bionic. The screen might be of a higher resolution, but it looks pixelated, and is no Super-AMOLED (+) or IPS LCD. Motorola phones are known to come with pathetic camera’s, and the Bionic will be no different.

Basically, Moto created hype around a product which is similar to the Droid 3 minus the keyboard, with extra RAM and a 4G LTE chip. Hopefully, Motorola will be sane enough not to lock down the boot loader on the handset. If they do so, then I guess they should get ready to suffer more losses during the next quarter.

If the next generation Apple iPhone for Verizon also sports 4G LTE compatibility, then I will suggest Motorola to not even bother releasing the Bionic to the general public. Had the phone been released sometime in the first half of this year, it would have been a worthy buy. Sadly, the device is still a month away from its official release and will offer too little, when launched.

P.S. – No, I am not even going to talk about disaster that is the Moto’s BLUR UI. The Bionic will come with a new version of Blur, which has some nice improvements. This does not make the new version less suck-y than the old version, though.