One reason everybody seems to agree on is the large patent portfolio that will now belong to Google. This is clearly stated in Larry Page’s blog post on the acquisition as it will “enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies”. Motorola’s Mobile Devices business segment has a total of 14,600 granted and 6,700 pending patents, including patents related to 2G, 3G, 4G, H.264, MPEG-4, 802.11, OMA and NFC. The Home business segment has 1,900 granted and 1,300 pending patents.
Having said this, as FOSS Patent points out, these patents may not be enough to win the on-going all-out patent war between Google and its rivals. Both Apple and Microsoft are in the middle of legal battles with Motorola and, it would seem, they have the upper hand.
So, does this mean it is not really about patents? Not so fast… As Om Malik reports, Microsoft was also negotiating to buy Motorola’s patent portfolio and that Google’s negotiations kicked up five weeks ago, shortly after they lost the bid for Nortel’s patent portfolio. The negotiations have gone very fast with Google CEO Larry Page and Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha talking directly and only involving a handful of executives – it seems that Android co-founder Andy Rubin was brought into the talks only very recently. Something made Google react quickly and, it could very well be, a combination of Microsoft’s interest and their loss of Nortel’s patent portfolio.
In any case, the acquisition gives Google the opportunity to be ‘playful’ in a number of new businesses into which they had not reach before.
One of those new business opportunities may be connected TV and using Motorola’s home solutions – automation, set-top box and broadband gear business – as a platform to jump into the home space and take part in the convergence of broadband and data. This is right in line with Larry Page highlighting that Google has acquired Motorola not only because of its strength in Android smart-phones and devices, but also for being a “market leader in the home devices and video solutions business”.
Motorola could help Google improve the less-than-stellar results it has achieved with Google TV. Motorola manufactures a large percentage of the set-top boxes in the US and, even if not successful, Google TV has some good features and the products of the two companies could be integrated. This is a very profitable business and together they could make it even more profitable.
Another, possibly great, business opportunity is for Google to become the new Apple, integrating hardware and software to create a unique experience for its customers. Granted, it will be difficult for the software company to fully integrate the hardware giant – not in the least because Google will see the size of its work-force double – but the combination of the two corporate cultures could still bring out the best of both. At the very least, why not use Motorola as a test-bed for its latest-and-greatest releases, for the acceptance of ‘straight-up’ Android interface and for the use of specific form-factors? At the end of the day, Google has already treated device makers differently, with some getting ‘private branches’ of the code in advance. Maybe the idea of an artificial Chinese Wall put up inside Google is not realistic.
This would seem to go against what Google’s initial PR release and all its further public comments where they have clearly stated that Android will continue to be an open system and that they will continue with full support of all of their OEM partners. And this would seem to make sense. Google allotted plenty of time during its latest (8) I/O conference to discuss the future of Android and it included Android-powered car consoles, refrigerators, dish-washers, clock radios and, basically, everything that had an LCD screen. Therefore, why limit themselves to a single manufacturer? Android needs to increase its mindshare as quickly as possible and to generate loyalty, this may be best done through multiple OEMs.
All in all, it is clear that we don’t yet know why ‘Googorola’ was born or what it will achieve but, for sure, it will be an interesting ride for all of us and it will, it has, challenge many current assumptions as to what the industry will look like in 5 to 10 years.