Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility is the second major upheaval in the mobile landscape following the announcement of Microsoft’s alliance with Nokia in February.
The primary attraction of the £7.6bn purchase for Google is the snaffling up of Motorola’s massive patent portfolio, which will help the internet giant protect its Android mobile operating system from being sued by other technology companies.
Google also gets to go down the stack by acquiring a hardware company to work with its software. That puts it in full contention with Apple, which has streaked ahead in the smartphone stakes thanks to its design flair and integrated control of the whole device.
The company also gets its mitts on Motorola’s TV set-top box and video software portfolio, which will boost Google’s ability to offer integrated content across TV, mobile phones and tablets.
So, just how does that change the balance in the industry? Microsoft worried its OEM partners over the Nokia deal, as they feared Nokia would get its hands on the latest Windows Phone innovations first. Following the Google-Motorola purchase, the manufacturers’ other main OS partner has stitched up a similar deal. Will Google favour Motorola with early access to new Android updates?
Microsoft now looks more virtuous as it does not actually own Nokia (will that change following Google’s move?) so suddenly it presents a more attractive option. Investors clearly thought so
as Nokia and Microsoft’s share price rose after the announcement of the Motorola deal.
Even so, the big Android manufacturers – Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony Ericsson, ZTE and Huawei – do not have much wriggle room. What OS alternatives are left? Symbian is hardly an option anymore. Will anyone look to do a deal with HP and use webOS – a great OS, but with a tiny app ecosystem?
As some analysts have speculated, RIM might be a target now for takeover by another OEM seeking its own proprietary system (or will Facebook be interested now Google has bagged a hardware provider?). Samsung’s Bada platform is doing rather well, so it at least has an alternative.
There is a lot of uncertainty out there right now and the one company which is likely to benefit the most as a safe bet in the short-term is… guess who… Apple.