Google Grabs Motorola Mobility

by Matt Klassen on August 16, 2011

Motorola kicked off this year with the surprising announcement that it had split itself into two different companies: Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility. Touted as a way of increasing the value of both companies, the erstwhile conjoined twins were separated and were seemingly enjoying their newfound independence.

Alas, the harsh realities of the world have caught up with Motorola, and it looks like the older more established Motorola Solutions will now have wave goodbye to its younger, flashier brother, as Motorola Mobility has been acquired by Google for a cool $12.5 billion.

While the acquisition certainly comes as a surprise, especially since Motorola has been enjoying a renaissance of its mobility brand, it’s a bold move that will put Google at the forefront of the mobile handset market, giving the search engine giant an established brand, a veritable treasure trove of patents, a way of better protecting Android, and a seemingly endless docket of patent litigation. Let’s just hope Google’s legal team is up to the task.

Looking back I have to wonder if Motorola splitting itself into two separate entities wasn’t done with this sort of acquisition already in mind. At the time writers here openly questioned the division, stating that it was a desperate move conceived in a pre-Android era at a time when Motorola was on the brink of financial disaster.

When the split itself was carried out, Motorola’s financial situation had improved dramatically, as the company was on the bleeding edge of smartphone development. But if acquisition plans were already in the works, admittedly the split makes a lot more sense, as a company like Google would have little interest in Motorola’s hardware technology division.

So what does this move do for Google? First off, it puts Google at the forefront of a competitive handset market with an established catalogue of extremely popular phones. It’s a part of the mobile market that Google has struggled to break into, as its Nexus One phone floundered under the search engine giant’s direct supervision.

Second, the deal gives Google ownership over a veritable fortune of intellectual property, as Motorola’s patent portfolio is quite extensive, with some 17,000 patents and an additional 7,500 patents pending.

That said, I would wager that Google’s reasons for acquiring Motorola probably has more to do with protecting its own mobile brand, Android. The popular open operating system has come under significant fire of late, with many of Google’s competitors taking legal action against both Android licensees like Motorola and the search engine giant itself.

Long having fought this legal battle by proxy, in an effort to protect Android, one of the world’s most popular mobile operating systems, Google hopes that putting itself on the front lines of the mobile market will lend much needed support to several beleaguered Android partners who have been trying to fend off the legal forays of Apple and others.

Further, while some are probably wondering how Google will fair in direct competition with many of its other Android licensees, Google sees this acquisition as a benefit to all, as Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond stated, the move is designed to, “protect the Android ecosystem for all of our partners.”

In the end, having lost out on Nortel’s plethora of patents, it was clear that Google needed to add to its arsenal of intellectual property and protect its own Android OS, and at first blush, it seems like the acquisition of Motorola provides Google all of that and more.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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