What does Google's purchase of Motorola (Googlerola) mean to the Android platform?
Yesterday Google announced plans to acquire Motorola Mobility in a $12.5 billion deal that, if approved by regulators, would make Google a hardware manufacturer for the first time. The move not only would give Google control of Motorola's mobile device development but also would make them the owner of some 17,000 patents. The patents, analysts say, are the underlying motivation for the purchase. Android-based smartphone and tablet manufacturers have been faced with mounting legal challenges from Oracle, Apple and Microsoft and Google's ownership of the Motorola patents may help in their fight of what is being called an "intellectual arms race."
In a post on the issue by Google CEO Larry Page in the official Google blog, Page explains their position on the patent challenges:
"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 community” and 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." ~ Larry Page, Google CEO
In addition to the legal ramifications of this move, I think this also gives Google an opportunity to enjoy more control in the development of hardware for mobile devices for their software and it could/should put them on more equal footing with Apple in that regard. Hopefully it also will encourage more development of apps for the Android Honeycomb OS running on the best Android tablets, of which Motorola's Xoom is one. The Xoom has had lackluster sales in large part because there are so few Honeycomb apps available.
One thing that isn't clear is how this will impact the other Android hardware manufacturers. I mean, if you were HTC or Samsung wouldn't you be worried about the Android boss making Motorola an internal, pet project? Doesn't this mean Motorola will always have the inside dope on Android development before everyone else? Page says Motorola will be operated as a separate company and that Android development will remain the same:
"This acquisition will not change our commitment to run Android as an open platform. Motorola will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. We will run Motorola as a separate business. Many hardware partners have contributed to Android’s success and we look forward to continuing to work with all of them to deliver outstanding user experiences." ~ Larry Page, Google CEO
This is a bold move by Google and it's one that has potential to cause waves of change throughout the smartphone industry. Can you say "Bye, Bye Blackberry?" Android already is the dominant mobile operating system and this move will likely facilitate a continuance of that dominance. Apple currently is the number one single seller of smartphones with the iPhone but that could change quickly. The iPad, however, is another story and it doesn't seem possible that Android tablets will present a serious challenge to Apple anytime soon.