News Analysis: When Google stunned the mobile device world by agreeing to buy Motorola Mobility at a huge premium, the patent portfolio was clearly in play, but Google gets more than just intellectual property. It also gets a good phone company.
Google's $12.5 billion offer to buy Motorola Mobility was a huge coup for the Android developer.
Not only was Motorola the company that brought Google into the big time with
its Droid smartphone, it's also a key player in the lineup of Verizon Wireless
LTE (Long-Term Evolution) 4G phones. Motorola also developed the first real competitor
to Apple's iPad with its Xoom tablet.
But there's a lot more to Motorola than a few cool devices. Motorola essentially invented the cell
phone business. In the days long before smart phones-and even long before the
Gordon Gecko brick-like cell phone (which was a Motorola device)-the company
made the first really successful mobile cell phones. Many of those strange curly
antennas on the back windows of upscale cars back in the '80s were connected to
Motorola mobile phones. But the company's history goes farther back than that,
to the days of early police radios, to the first short-wave mobile phones.
The reason for this history
lesson? It's simple. Motorola owns most, if not all, of the basic mobile phone
patents. Motorola was making mobile phones before Apple computer existed. So
when Google closes the sale on the Motorola deal, it gains a patent portfolio
that is so basic that every company that sells a cell phone today must license
its patents. This effectively shuts down Apple's lawsuits against Android if
only because Apple can't afford to lose its licenses to use Motorola's
While this might not put
Google in the catbird seat in the mobile phone industry, it at least allows
Google to compete on an equal footing with Apple and other phone makers, and it
gives the other makers of Android phones a significant level of assurance that
they won't suddenly lose the right to use the Android operating system.
The acquisition of Motorola
may also quell Apple's quest to own every mobile patent on the planet, with
even the flimsiest of claims, if only because there's more to lose. But really,
there's a lot more to this deal than just patents. This also puts Google into
the position to make its own phones, sort of in the same way that Apple makes
But I suspect that this will
be a different situation than the iPhone. With the Apple product, the company
controls every aspect of the design, pricing and distribution. With Android,
anybody can play.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.