What Google’s acquisition might mean

Google announced that they are purchasing Motorola Mobility for about $12.5B dollars.  What could this announcement mean?

The patent wars end?

Google made no secret of the fact that it bought Motorola for patent protection.  Motorola has a large and comprehensive treasure chest of patents.   Will this protect Google against patent suits by Apple, Microsoft and Oracle?  Who knows.   The patent system in the US is screwed up beyond belief.   Motorola has a number of great patents in the mobile area; however, I don’t think the patents will protect against the specific patent violations mentioned in the Oracle suit.

Control of the Android ecosystem?

I think one observation that has been missed in the analysis is how much this improves Google’s control over the Android ecosystem.  Google has tried to push a number of changes through its mobile phone makers, with poor results:

  • Less Carrier Control: Google has been continually pushing against carriers to change the end user experience.  They have attempted to work with manufacturers to produce “pure” Android phones (the original Droid, Nexus One, and so on).  When the Nexus One debuted, Google attempted to build a new model of phone buying that bypassed carriers.  However, “pure” Android phones are still rare, and Google’s attempt to sell the Nexus One without carrier support fell flat.
  • Fragmentation:  Google puts out updates to their Android OS roughly twice a year, and most end users look forward to these updates.  However, end users typically end up actually getting the updates only several months after the update is publicized, due to carrier testing and manufacturer customizations.
  • Near Field Communication (NFC):  Early this year, Google released the Nexus S, one of the first phones with NFC support.  NFC support enables technology like pay by phone and “smart-tagging” signage or merchandise to trigger an action (such as opening a web site).  Although the technology is promising, no one else had produced a phone with NFC support enabled.

With the purchase of its own phone manufacturer, Google now has the ability to push these trends.  I look forward to more unlocked phones, “pure” Android phones, and more phones with direct pay capabilities using NFC.

Chicago as a first tier tech city?

Could this mean the rise of Chicago as a first-rate tech city?  I am not sure.  Motorola already has a significant presence in the Valley; it’s questionable what they will remain in the Chicago area.  And does Google even intend to build its own phones, or will it retain the patents and sell off the remains of the company?  There are a lot of unknowns here; nonetheless, the cachet of the Google name with a large presence in Chicago is bound to have some influence in the burgeoning Chicago tech scene.

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