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September 7th, 2011

Will Google Keep Motorola?

There’s been very little in the way of real news about Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility since the deal was announced on August 15th. We know this acquisition was made mainly because Google desperately needs to beef up its mobile patent portfolio, and that Motorola has several boatloads of such patents. This means if this sale can pass antitrust muster with the DOJ, Google will be in a much better position to wheel and deal with the likes of Apple, maybe even Oracle, when it comes to Android and alleged patent infringements.

Everybody gets that – no argument. However, many tech writers have been wondering out loud how Android vendors like HTC and Samsung feel about Google competing with them in the consumer marketplace. Aren’t they worried that Google will give preference to Motorola at the expense of the other handset makers?

The funny thing is, until yesterday’s announcement that Samsung might be eyeing MeeGo as an Android replacement, it seems that the only ones expressing concern over this are tech writers. Indeed, even the Samsung/MeeGo connection is so far only rumor and blog fodder. So far, Android vendors themselves have been mostly silent and are acting as if it’s business as usual.

This doesn’t come as a surprise because I think it is business as usual. I suspect that before the pending deal with Motorola was announced, Google most likely talked to their friends with the Open Handset Alliance and gave them a heads up. We’ll get these patents, Google probably said, and we’ll use them collectively to fight off attacks from the trolls.

Like Magnum used to say, I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking I haven’t dealt with the problem of unfair competition coming from Google’s ownership of Motorola Mobility. You’re right, because I think that’s a non-issue. Frankly, I don’t think Google’s in the least bit interested in getting into the handset making game. They just want the patents, then they’ll spin Motorola off.

We’ll probably find this out before the DOJ comes even close to deciding if the deal is a go or no go, especially if Justice starts making noises indicating they’re going to deny the purchase. In that case, Google will suggest that approval of the sale be given, with a provision that they will then have to find a new owner for Motorola Mobility within a set time period.

Google just needs the patents. They need an electronics manufacturing company like they need a hole in the head. I doubt they intend to keep Motorola, and I suspect their Android partners understand that. It wouldn’t even surprise me if I were to discover that one of them has already agreed to purchase the handset maker as soon as the DOJ approves the deal and Google claims ownership.

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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