What a day today was: if you’re not yet aware, it was announced just a few hours ago that Google had bought Motorola for a staggering $12.5 billion. Now that the dust has settled down, it now seems that there was someone else in line as well who attempted to buy the company for a lower amount.
And to our surprise, that company was Microsoft. Motorola, despite not being such a great player in the mobile device business, has an asset all emerging makers have long wished for: patents, lots of them. The company, which was just acquired by Google, granted Android access to 17,000 US patents and as many as 7,500 still pending. In addition, it will grant Google a larger customer base it can attempt to sell Android too.
You should now understand why Microsoft would have liked to buy Motorola so much: what a great opportunity it would be to get access to so many patents and still potentially increase Windows Phone 7’s market share? As the owner of Motorola’s large patent portfolio, the Redmond company could then use it to find similarities between it and Android’s features, which could lead Google into a lawsuit and in turn cripple Android’s success through royalty fees or attempted bans.
It’s obvious that Google didn’t want this to happen, so Google CEO Larry Page met with Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha and talked for 5 weeks, allegedly with the Android chief himself showing up only at the very end of the negotiations. A higher bid was likely proposed,which likely caused Motorola to walk away from Microsoft’s negotiations and going for Google’s takeover.
It’s unclear what Android will do with Motorola’s patents, if the deal ever gets approved, which could not due to anti-trust laws. Yet, if it does happen, Google could turn into a patent bully and sue its competitors for certain implementations in their operating systems that could allude to Motorola’s patents. If this indeed happens, both Apple and Microsoft should get ready to face some legal challenges over the coming years.
Of course, we could take the innocent route and assume that Google will only use Motorola’s technology to improve its own products, and so would Microsoft if its deal had gone through. Yet, given the current state of the smartphone market, Google is clearly in it to win it, and legal suits might assist the company in that process.
Whether this deal prevented the destruction of Android or not we’ll never know, but it was nice of Google to play it safe, or not, depending on which side you’re on.