Google buys Moto to tackle patent weakness

16 Aug 2011

Does Google chief Larry Page not know how many handset makers are using his firm’s Android mobile operating system?

Talking about his firm’s $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility – Google’s first foray into the hardware world – Page quoted some heavy-hitting statistics regarding Android’s success since its launch late in 2007. But the exact text of his blog leaves you wondering how much he actually knows about the platform’s progress.

For example, “more than 150 million Android devices have been activated worldwide.” So what’s the number? 151 million? 200 million? More?

Page seems a little more certain when it comes to Android activations, revealing that 550,000 devices are “now lit up every day.” But then the chief reveals uncertainty regarding just how many device makers are now running the platform, noting that Android devices are produced by a “network of about 39 manufacturers.”

Again, which is it? “About” is a worryingly vague term for a CEO to use while announcing his firm’s plan to dig into its cash pile and buy one of those manufacturers. It’s either 39 vendors, or it’s a different number entirely.

It’s typical PR bluster in a world where press officers seem to have forgotten they should be purveyors of firm facts – particularly to their chief executives.

Page’s blog also carries a bunch of unnecessary information about how he’s loved Motorola’s devices since the mid-90s, when it invented the flip form factor with its StarTAC, which rather detracts from the solid information regarding Motorola’s 80 year history in the wireless world.

The US manufacturer is, after all, the first maker of cell phones – albeit in-car models - and was a mainstay of the two-way radios deployed by many US emergency services.

Page admits that Motorola’s patent stack helps Google address what many commentators consider its greatest weakness in the wireless space – namely a lack of patents – amid mounting patent litigation against the firm.

“Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies,” he notes.

The chief also hints that the firm has plumped for Motorola after recently missing out on a stack of Nortel patents, which were eventually sold to an Apple-led consortium comprising Microsoft, RIM and Sony, despite Google being picked as the stalking horse bidder.

However, the purchase goes beyond simply advancing Google’s patent clout. The search giant also gains access to the US vendor’s stack of home devices and video products, which suggests the firm will also use Motorola’s technology to advance a vision of a fully ‘connected’ IP world.

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