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Google acquisition of Motorola aims at patent protection

Aug 15, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

[Updated: 8 a.m.] — Google agreed to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, a move to protect Android from rampant patent infringement litigation and give Google a hardware counterpart to Apple. The company remains committed to keeping Android “as an open platform and a vibrant open source community,” stated Google SVP Andy Rubin.

Google stunned the high-tech world Aug. 15 with its accepted offer to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. The company's largest purchase ever should give the search engine much-needed patent protection related to Android.

Google agreed to pay $40 per share in cash, a premium of 63 percent over Motorola Mobility's Aug. 12 closing price. Pending regulatory approval, the bid is slated to close by the end of 2011 or in early 2012.

Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of Android, which will remain available to other hardware makers under an open source license, says the company. Google says it will  run Motorola Mobility as a separate business.

Motorola Mobility in 2008 eschewed Windows Mobile phone development in favor of Android. In November 2009, the company rolled out the Motorola Droid, the first truly successful Android smartphone. The launch was backed by a $100 million marketing campaign by carrier Verizon Wireless.

Last December, Motorola followed through on a long-planned split-up, resulting in a Motorola Mobility company aimed primarily at Android mobile devices, and a Motorola Solutions firm devoted to enterprise products. 

Motorola Mobility has pumped out more than a dozen Android devices in the last two years, including Sprint's recent Motorola Photon 4G (pictured). Motorola has also suffered some misfortune with Android. The company in February of this year launched the Motorola Xoom, the first Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablet. The device did not sell particularly well versus Apple's iPad. Motorola also struggled with 4G product creation, delaying the Motorola Droid Bionic launch from the second quarter to the third.

With Android rising to capture 40 percent market share in the United States and more worldwide, the phone maker was also sued for patent infringement by Microsoft and Apple last November. Those suits underscore the current climate of Android, over which Apple has also sued HTC, Samsung, and Barnes & Noble for their use of technology in Android devices. Microsoft and Apple have also ganged up on Google to acquire patents from Nortel Networks, ideally for the purpose of keeping the technology rights away from patent-poor Google.

The patent wars — and the potential advantages of owning an Android hardware maker — appear to have motivated Google to pull the trigger on this deal. It will also be interesting to see if the continuing rumors about Motorola's secret project to build a web-based operating system (OS) are for real, and if so, whether Google intends to apply it to Chrome OS or a webified version of Android.

Stated Google CEO Larry Page, who separately published a blog post on the acquisition, "Together, we will create amazing user experiences that supercharge the entire Android ecosystem for the benefit of consumers, partners and developers."

Rubin: Android remains open

In a statement, Andy Rubin, Senior Vice President of Mobile at Google, played defense against potential claims that Google is violating the spirit of an open platform by getting into the hardware business.

"Our vision for Android is unchanged and Google remains firmly committed to Android as an open platform and a vibrant open source community," stated Rubin, the key force behind the development of Android. "We will continue to work with all of our valued Android partners to develop and distribute innovative Android-powered devices."

Last week, it was reported that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was looking into alleged anti-competitive behavior on the part of Google, including forcing Android OEMs to use its own services.

Also last week, Motorola CEO and Chairman Sanjay Jha suggested Motorola might force other Android OEMs to pay it royalties related to Android, according to AppleInsider.

"We have a very large IP portfolio," Jha was quoted as saying at the Oppenheimer Technology and Communications Conference Aug. 9. "I think in the long term, as things settle down, you will see a meaningful difference in positions of many different Android players. Both, in terms of avoidance of royalties, as well as potentially being able to collect royalties. And that will make a big difference to people who have very strong IP positions."

A Google TV angle?

In his remarks today, Motorola's Jha stated, "We have shared a productive partnership with Google to advance the Android platform, and now through this combination we will be able to do even more to innovate and deliver outstanding mobility solutions across our mobile devices and home businesses."

Jha's mention of its home business, as well as Page's blog entry noted farther above, suggests that Google has yet to give up on its struggling Google TV platform.

Writes Page, "Motorola is also a market leader in the home devices and video solutions business. With the transition to Internet Protocol, we are excited to work together with Motorola and the industry to support our partners and cooperate with them to accelerate innovation in this space."

Motorola has long been a leader in the set-top box (STB) market, leading the way in using embedded Linux as an STB OS. However, it has yet to license Google's Android-based IPTV platform.


An 8:30 EDT investor webcast on Google's proposed acquisition of Motorola can be replayed here.

Clint Boulton is a writer for eWEEK. Eric Brown also contributed to this report.

This article was originally published on and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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