Commentary

Is Google's Motorola Acquisition An Offensive Or Defensive Play?

Motorolla-Smartphone

It will be fascinating to watch how Google's proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobility plays out over the coming months and potentially years.  It appears as though Google is looking to acquire Motorola for a number of reasons, some defensive, others offensive.

 On the one hand, acquiring Motorola's 17,000+ patents will allegedly aid Google's fight against a number of lawsuits in relation to its OS software, both current and future.  On the other, Google will finally be able to control the hardware that its popular Android OS sits within, allowing the company to completely bring its vision for modern mobility to life without depending on hardware manufacturers whom it can influence but not control.

Google claims that Motorola will have no advantage over its other partners when it comes to developments with the Android platform, but that's hard to believe.  How the software giant handles its relationships with the likes of HTC and Samsung (who have helped make Android the success story it is today) moving forward will be instrumental in the future success and (Google hopes) ubiquity of the platform.   

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Some analysts have reacted to the news by predicting that Microsoft might be a beneficiary of this acquisition with apprehensive Google Android partners looking to spread their bets and develop devices that don't rely purely on a partner who also owns a major competitor of theirs.  That seems like a relatively safe assumption to make, given the hyper-competitive nature of the market and manufacturers' fears of being sidelined by Apple and Google.

How Google, a giant of the software world but with little experience of hardware development, manages a manufacturing operation of Motorola's scale -- while successfully integrating it into the Google family and creating the new products the company clearly wants to see revolutionize the market -- will be a distinct challenge, and one that will be very interesting to watch unfold.

Google is putting its money where its mouth is to help shape its vision of the future.  The company has made some bold statements about where the mobile market is going over a relatively short timeframe. Company strategists seems to believe that only by controlling hardware development as Apple does, will their vision of the future come to life any time soon.

Development of a significant number of NFC-enabled handsets from Google/Motorola in the short to medium term would be a safe bet, with Google looking to bring its 'Google Wallet' project to the masses, delivering on its ambitious statement of 50% penetration of mobile payments in the U.S. in the next three years.  Additionally, Google will be looking to leverage Motorola's technology and patents to improve on the Google TV product and experience. By controlling the hardware experience as well as the software running it (coupled with Google's existing search, display, ad-serving, social and data products), the company will hope to create the kind of ubiquitous ecosystem in our lives that Apple is creating.

While Apple may have a head start, together with huge cash reserves and world-class supply chain management, should Google's proposed acquisition pass through regulators' scrutiny then we're in for a very interesting couple of years in this space, with aggressive competition between the two companies potentially fueling incredible experiences for consumers and marketers alike.

1 comment about "Is Google's Motorola Acquisition An Offensive Or Defensive Play?".
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  1. Adam Hartung from spark partners, August 20, 2011 at 5:27 p.m.

    First and foremost - and almost entirely - this was a defensive move by Google. Worried that I.P. issues would doom Android, buying Motorola was the fastest route to resolving the legal issues dogging them.

    Only Android, and Motorola, aren't profitable. It is unclear Android was a smart product to defend. Forbes headlined "Google's Bit Mistake - Buying Motorola to Save Android" http://onforb.es/nDGxlY

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