This is news that few saw coming - Google has bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. From a developer's point of view this is a mixed blessing with some potentially good aspects and some potentially bad ones.
First it is worth saying that Motorola's phone department wasn't really much compared to what it once was and perhaps finding a backer like Google is just what it needed. On the other hand Google doesn't really have a track record for designing hardware that makes any sort of impact at all. As Motorola went 100% Android recently, its acquisition by Google doesn't affect any other platform directly.
The first big problem for Google is that it has just acquired a company that has a lot of employees at a time that Google itself is expanding at a rate that must make it hard to manage. This leads on to the problem that the other manufacturers of Android hardware must be thinking that Motorola will now get insider status. Google has stated that the Motorola division will be kept separate and treated on an equal footing with other hardware manufacturers. Even so, if you were an Android handset maker wouldn't you be looking to see what else was on offer - say, Windows Phone 7?
A key element in the purchase is the fact that Motorola has 17,000 patents and 7,500 pending. This is three times the number that Nortel held when Google failed to win the auction by bidding silly numbers. In the light of the takeover perhaps the bidding wasn't quite so silly. In fact many are saying that it was all a brilliant ploy by Larry Page - who knows?
It is also difficult to work out what the effect of the patents will have on the Oracle Google lawsuit which is still grinding on. Google also inherits a number of lawsuits involving Motorola - notably Motorola v Microsoft.
It is easy to see the acquisition as just being about patents, but Google could probably have achieved the same result by simply licencing that patents for a much lower sum. Whatever the rationale it is clear that this is all about Android.
To quote Google:
"The combination of Google and Motorola will not only supercharge Android, but will also enhance competition and offer consumers accelerating innovation, greater choice, and wonderful user experiences. I am confident that these great experiences will create huge value for shareholders."
We will have to a wait and see what it all means, but it clearly is a shake up for the Android market. Whether it makes the whole enterprise more secure, has no effect, or drives manufacturers into the arms of alternative platforms, only time will tell.
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