Google today announced its intent to purchase Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. While Google assures its other Android licensees that the platform will remain open and license-free, product strategists at Samsung, LG, and HTC are certain to revisit their Windows Phone hedge strategy. We see two key reasons for Google to take the risk of alienating its other hardware partners:
- Intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. Google brings little to the table in the form of patents relevant to handsets and tablets, forcing Android licensees to beef up their own portfolios in the legal derring-do that, for example, has Samsung Galaxy tablets locked out of the European market by Apple lawsuits. Motorola’s rich collection of patents greatly strengthens Google’s position at the IPR table.
- It’s a multidevice, multiconnection world. Consumers are no longer reliant on one dominant device like the PC for their connection to the content, commerce, communications, and comfort that the Net provides. Instead, they have multiple choices sitting in front of them at any moment and are often connected to more than one — today it’s the PC, tablet, phone, and TV, but connections are beginning to pervade the car and myriad devices in the home. Android is present in most of these devices today and aims, with GoogleTV and Android@home, to be in all of them. Excepting the PC, Motorola has products in these market segments today and is the only large original equipment manufacturer (OEM) exclusively reliant on Android for its mobile devices.
Acquiring Motorola Mobility gives Google a strong IPR position across more than just smartphones and enables the company to craft experiences that provide continuity across multiple screens. But, by entering into the hardware business, Google risks significantly weakening other OEMs’ commitment to the Android platform going forward.