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Now what, Google? Will Apple, Microsoft take Motorola buy lying low?

Google bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, a 63 per cent premium on their current share price. Now what? There are still quite a few doubts across the board. While Google CEO Larry Page and Android boss Andy Rubin have tried to answer some of them, we will just go through some of the issues here.

Kushan Mitra | August 16, 2011 | Updated 21:13 IST

Kushan Mitra
Here is the headline news: Google bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, a 63 per cent premium on their current share price. Google's Chief Executive Officer Larry Page said the search giant was primiarly itching to acquire Motorola's treasure trove of 12,000 patents.

Now what? There are still quite a few doubts across the board. While Page and Andy Rubin, Google's Android boss, have tried to answer some of them, we will just go through some of the issues here.

Patents, patents, patents:Google felt Android was under attack by a host of companies - Apple, Microsoft, and Nokia directly compete with it in the smartphone space and even Oracle has either sued Google or companies making devices and services for Android handsets.

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Usually, the tech arena is an 'I scratch your back, you scratch mine' world; with most companies owning patents that others need. Recently Apple and Nokia settled a cross-licensing pact.

Now, while some people might launch a diatribe against the world of technology patents, and Google often did, it needed patents to protect Android from lawsuits that might have crippled the 'free' operating system by involving huge licensing fees.

But the others? The first question many observers asked is what about the other manufacturers of Android devices? Korean manufacturer Samsung is powering its way to the top of the handset heap on the back of Android. Taiwanese manufacturer HTC has entered the top-10 rankings thanks to Android. Well, Page and Rubin say nothing will happen as Motorola will continue to operate as an 'independent' entity.

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However, Motorola has previously played a role in launching 'flagship' Android devices - the Droid (sold as 'Milestone' in India) was the first major device running Android 1.5 and Motorola Xoom is the first major release of Android's 'Honeycomb' version for tablets.

However, as long as Google does not seem to prefer Motorola too much (and it is very difficult to define too much) the adopted children will be at peace. They know Android has made them what they are today, and if it were not for Android, they could have had a fate worse than that of Blackberry and Nokia.

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Apple and Microsoft: Winners or losers? Hmmm, tough call. Apple is still a company that makes four devices that run iOS, and still makes a ton of money despite tens of manufacturers making hundreds of Android devices competing against it.

Thanks to Apple controlling the entire ecosystem - from development of the device to control over the software that can go on it (every app needs to be approved by Apple administrators) and crucially the sales part of the structure - the company might have distributors in India, but in most parts of the world, they run their own stores.

Does Apple care? Well, they clearly treat Android as a threat - look at their lawsuits against Samsung and HTC. But, those are mainly targeted at the higher-end devices that compete directly against its products. Apple is unlikely to make a cheaper iPhone for emerging markets (unless previous generation iPhones are considered cheap - which is what Airtel and Aircel are doing right now) but in the long run, they know that Android is going to be around and they will have to learn to compete. They will still keep filing lawsuits, but lawyers always get rich. Right?

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Microsoft is the more relevant issue here. Will this finally force them to buy Nokia? Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 is a very good piece of software, but seems to lack traction in the market, but going back to the previous point if Microsoft remains an 'independent' provider of software to companies - will manufacturers such as Samsung and HTC, who already have a portfolio of WP7 devices, look at them more kindly?

In conclusion: Really, nobody can be sure what will happen over the next few months, but all we can say is that the mobile space just got a hell of a lot more interesting.

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