Another interesting bit of news hit the wires this morning, with the announcement that Google is acquiring Motorola Mobility for a cool $12.5 billion. The surface level reasoning seems to revolve around Google getting their hands on Motorola’s extensive IP portfolio (17,000+ issued patents, plus another 7000+ pending patents). Since Google “controls” Android as a mobility OS, it’s become embroiled in an endless series of patent disputes with Apple and others of their ilk. Rolling in 17K worth of IP is a nice little ammo upgrade, but this clearly seems like a defensive move on Google’s part.
The far more interesting slant on this, however, is that the acquisition moves Google (with zero ambiguity) directly into the hardware business. So does this mean that the big brains at Google see hardware as a potential growth market? By controlling Android and buying Motorola Mobility, they now enter that exclusive club of companies that not only license an OS, but are also an OEM. This has to be significantly disruptive to their existing ecosystem, how could it not be? The commentary from Android licensees such as Samsung and HTC was polite, but it was likely delivered through gritted teeth.
The real question is how is Google going to keep bias from entering the system? There are over 500,000 Android phones being activated every day, but this blistering activation rate is spread out across 39 manufacturers. Since every OEM does their own little permutation of Android, the end user experience varies widely, which is pretty much the exact opposite of Apples tightly controlled gilded ecosystem. Google will continue to claim an agnostic approach (of course), but for 12.5 billion it is not unreasonable to assume that Motorola will get to cut in line when new shiny objects come out of the Google pipe. Where does this leave the big Android OEMs, specifically Samsung and HTC? It is now highly likely they will give Windows Phone a much finer scrutiny, since Microsoft is now pretty much the only hardware agnostic player left.
From an enterprise mobility perspective this is interesting, but probably won’t have much impact on the transformative drivers for adoption; the devices that are broadly used are limited in terms of the number of suppliers, and we work very closely with all of them. In addition, the contextual framework is becoming very apps centric (and we have a strong story for that as well), and the impact of the acquisition on that is likely to be limited as well.