August 15, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
For once, I woke up to news of something other than political squabbling and celebrity gossip. Google is acquiring Motorola Mobility for the sum of $12.5 billion. My mind immediately started racing about how such a major deal could remain under the radar, and then wondering what this news means for me as an Android user and observer.
After reading about this deal and bouncing ideas off a few people earlier this morning, I’ve reached a few guesses about how today’s news will affect Android users tomorrow.
Is Motorola making the next Nexus device?
The first thought everyone had after this deal is that Motorola’s all but sewn-up the honor of delivering the next Nexus device. It wouldn’t be the first time Motorola managed to deliver a premiere Android device, but the proposed acquisition guarantees nothing. Google VP Andy Rubin has confirmed that it will continue the previous process of choosing the Nexus manufacturer among all Android manufacturers. Motorola will still have to compete with HTC, LG, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson to deliver much-rumored Nexus 3.
HTC and Samsung have already delivered Nexus devices, so it’s possible that LG or Motorola could have a leg-up. Considering that the next Nexus will run Ice Cream Sandwich, which requires a close working relationship with Google, and have a TI processor, found in multiple Motorola products, one would have to assume this furthers Motorola’s cause. It’s not guaranteed, but things seem to be lining-up.
Other Android makers are probably ticked off, right?
Not publicly. All of the major Android OEM’s have come-out in support of this deal as a sign that it shows Google’s commitment to defending Android. However, would you be happy in any of their shoes? Google has move from being a phone software supplier to being a phone hardware maker. The company that spearheaded the team-effort of the OHA is now a direct competitor on store shelves and in the minds of consumers.
Imagine if Roger Goodell decided tomorrow to purchase an NFL franchise. Could he really be trusted as Commissioner and act in the best interest of all league owners if he also has to look out for the best interest of his own team? While they may not always be mutually exclusive, there will come a time when Google’s decision for the benefit of Motorola may not be for the benefit of other Android handset makers. Unless of course this ia all about patents.
Patents? Not those things again!
Most people are probably sick of hearing about patents, but patents played an important role in this acquisition based on statements made by Google co-founder Larry Page. Motorola has one of the largest intellectual property libraries of any handset manufacturer, and that is crucial when a company seeks to defend itself against patent lawsuits. A country is less likely to use nuclear warfare if the enemy can fire back nukes as well. With Apple and Microsoft attacking Android smartphone makers for alleged patent violations, having Motorola’s giant patent system to license or share with Android phone makers could be a major tool for safeguarding OHA members from lawsuits.
Whatever, at least this means MOTOBLUR is dead, right?
Not so fast, sweetheart. Motorola has a lot of money invested in Blur and several products reliant on the heavily-customized version of Android. Google has signaled that it will let Motorola operate independently for now, so there will still be multiple Android phones running Blur (or whatever Motorola calls it now) this year. Let’s also not forget that Blur exists on several high-profile devices and Motorola was planning a big push into webtop-capable phones. The Google deal will not make Motorola simply walk away from that.
AndroidGuys/Neowin writer Ben Rubenstein says Google wants more stock Android devices and it will encourage that at Motorola. Androinica Twitter follower Vance14 made a point that “[Motorola] has new bosses that don’t like MotoBlur. I tend to do what my bosses like!”
In that, I agree; however, there’s one important thing to remember: Google isn’t Motorola’s boss yet. The deal could require government approval and could take time to be official. Until that happens, it’s just not practical for Motorola to jump off the Blurtrain.
Wait, what do you mean government approval?
A few people have suggested that Google’s purchase of Motorola will trigger concerns about whether the company is being anti-competitive. ZDNet writer James Kendrick went so far as to say, “Google just unleashed an anti-trust nightmare on itself. Remember where you heard that first.”
I originally thought that Motorola’s market share was not big enough to prompt an anti-trust investigation. However, Kendrick’s follow-up statement showed me that Google’s market share in search is big enough to raise concerns about anti-competitive behavior. It’s one thing if Google controls an open source software that has Google Search when OEM’s create phones. But if Google controls the software and a large hardware maker, someone could make an argument that the company has an unfair advantage. How funny would it be if Microsoft – a target for anti-trust investigations in the 90′s – managed to get Google in trouble because it became tougher to get Bing as the default handset on Android phones? .
The Google deal doesn’t seem anti-competitive, but the implication that it might be is more than enough to trigger an inquiry from the U.S. government. One giant company buying another will almost always raise questions. Purchasing Motorola may require Google to answer questions about how it will make decisions and influence Motorola’s actions.
It doesn’t seem like anything will immediately change for users. Motorola will continue operating business as usual, Google will push forward with its efforts to advance Android, and we still aren’t any closer to a definitive answer on who will make the next Nexus that Tony’s anxiously awaiting.
Today’s news will lead to big changes, though. MotoBlur probably is on borrowed time – or at least will not appear as frequently as it does now – and this could change how quickly the company manages to update phones. I’m excited to see how this will affect not only Motorola but all Android makers and Google’s role in the platform. Google has been in the phone business since it acquired Android several years ago. Now, it’s a player in the game rather just a commissioner.