Google-Motorola superphones incoming?

No matter what you bought this week, you couldn't have made as big a splash as Google's purchase of Motorola's phone division. 

Motorola Mobility will officially be signed over to the big G and the deal is expected to pass by the start of next year. CEO Larry Page has made it clear the transaction was based largely on Motorola's extensive patent portfolio - that £7.7 billion price tag exactly covered Moto's 24,500 patents and patent applications - as a way to protect Android in the spat of patent lawsuits between Samsung, Apple, HTC and others. 

Of course, there are benefits to making phones completely in-house. iPhones and BlackBerrys offer a super streamlined UI thanks to the ability to build software that integrates tightly with the hardware its in-house teams designed. That singular way of winding your way through an OS is something that's largely missing from vanilla Android phones - though that openness is also what attracts users to Android.

So what sort of phones are we likely to see emerge out of Googorola? Motorola Mobility will continue to be run as a separate company, so it's likely to continue leading the design of new Motorola phones - which means we probably won't be seeing any contenders for iPhone-sleek style.

On the other hand, MOTOBLUR, Moto's bloated social networking-based UI, is likely to get its final kick in the teeth. 'Motorola has been gradually downplaying the significance of the MOTOBLUR UI for some time, so we expect it to become even less significant under Google,' says Neil Mawston of Strategy Analytics.

Mawston says that for now, the deal is going to have limited impact on Android. 'The platform has strong momentum and there are currently few rivals with compelling alternatives. However, if Google upsets its multiple hardware partners they may be tempted to churn to rival platforms like Windows Phone 7.'

Motorola's non-phone gadgets add a twist to the mix - it makes set-top boxes as well as smartphones and tablets. Its Home division made £3.6 billion profit last year with home devices providing 75% of profits. Google's software reaches across smartphones, tablets and desktops - and Google has made no secret of its plans to converge the hell out of mobile.

With a hardware division that's clued up on other screens you're likely to use, that strategy is likely to accelerate, and fast. Think a series of super sync-friendly phones built for multi-screen use, like opening a webpage on the phone and finishing it on your TV. After all, at the base of it all, Google is about advertising, and being able to get its advertising from your phone to your TV would be a pretty lucrative sell. 

But analyst John Strand of Strand Consult has a wilder prediction - Google will soon sell off Motorola Mobility. Its patent acquisition had nothing to do with the current patent wars, he says, but is instead a bid to play with the real big boys in patents - Nokia, Ericsson and Qualcomm.

These three own the deep rights to mobile - the connectivity bit that allows phones to call each other, go online and download apps. Anyone that makes a phone has to pay to use these patents - but if you go in on a pool, you could share your patents with pool partners to ensure a lower cost of using their patents.

With Motorola's 17,000 patents and 7,500 applications, Google would be in a far better position to muscle into the Qual-Eric-Nok pool - and have its smartphones created faster, and at an even more competitive price. Android may already be the most popular smartphone OS, but it doesn't look like Google is going to make us wait long to truly welcome our new Android overlords.

Written by Mobile Choice
Mobile Choice

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